Letter to America
by Partridge Boswell

One Poem

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The Breakup

It’s amazing why we keep loving this country,
and this country does not love us back.
   – Doc Rivers

America, here’s the thing…

I’m my son’s age again on a Greyhound bus packed with
             friends and chaperones—patriots from our hometown
headed for our nation’s capital. While older kids secretly

party and make out in back, we ride up front so we can see
             the improvised scat of your byways’ strange window
music unfolding. Retracing underground tracks back south,

we sneak a pit stop at Gettysburg to stretch our legs
             and pay respect to thousands who gave their lives
in the names of Justice, Unity, Equality and Freedom.

Remember them? At any rate, the hotel has a pool, right
             next to Watergate. We eat at McDonald’s and my first Roy
Rogers. It’s your biggest birthday yet, even if bicentennial

doesn’t rhyme with bisexual then. All the monuments to
             great men are packed, all of us milling snapping Instamatics,
breathing the same swollen air. Country of ours, you were

going somewhere: your Smithsonian launching out of stately
             brick into the final frontier of aerospace. My roommate picks
a fight over candy or a souvenir, or maybe just because he has

three brothers and misses them, all those hormones dressed up
             and nowhere to go but me. Whatever pretext, I let him pin
and pummel me—he’s a year older and a good liar, what choice

do I have. Weirdly, my favorite sight isn’t the white house
             or a sunken black wall that like your conscience doesn’t
yet exist, or a lofty sacred light streaming through the rotunda’s

upper panes, or even the golden sun rising in a hero’s welcome
             through columns of Lincoln’s temple, the long pool’s waterlight
dancing in his marble eyes, cherry trees lining the riverbank like

Arcadian sentinels banishing axes of corruption and lies… Nope,
             it’s that mausoleum of words, the Archives, I dig most—all those
immortal oaths ghosting like superheroes under hermetic inches

of glass, words built to outlast shifting regimes and allegiances,
             living words that can’t be erased even by maniacal tyrants
or plagues. I gaze, flabbergasted. No way those wrinkled parchment

skins are genuine! No way their serifed eloquence says what we
             still need most to hear, or that God’s hand scripted every letter
in the blood of every woman and man who died to preserve them

so we could be invincible, gobsmacked and free! (On your birthday
             this year, we went now-here. I’m sure you get our predicament—
how my son isn’t in school memorizing preambles and articles;

how this is no time for indoctrination or connection to each other
             let alone the past—his generation being asked to dive deeper
into the blackening blue night behind your dissolving stars

and stripes, now that your icons have never meant more or less.)
             On our bus ride back north, chaperones spent, my roommate
and I sit together, best friends again. Our trip leader asks us to write

our “impressions.” A week later, Mom’s clipping mine from
             the local paper and taping them to the fridge, my first byline.
I want to think the proud river of your demos-driven blood

flowed through my pen in a cascading afflatus the editors
             couldn’t resist—not that I’m probably the only kid who
wrote something. It’s true: you’ll always be my first big

crush, your skin from a distance unblemished as the moon,
             untouchable, yet by then touched. You can see it in that first
author photo the photographer took on our stoop: that smitten

beaming boy framed by his love letter’s sacred text (redacted
             clean of mushy stuff deemed too political, poetic or true).
Look hard, America, you can still get the gist. It’s obvious

you haven’t changed a lick, you’ll always have your youth.
             It isn’t you disillusioned lovers like to jive in the movies we
used to go see. You can tell even then: It’s me. It’ll always be me.




Partridge BoswellPartridge Boswell is the recipient of the 2022 Fish Flash Fiction and New Zealand International Poetry Prizes. His poems appear in the forthcoming Saguaro Poetry Prize-winning collection Not Yet a Jedi and in Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, Salmagundi, The American Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Prairie Schooner, The Moth, and others. Co-founder of Bookstock Literary Festival, he teaches at Vallum Society for Education in Arts & Letters in Montreal and troubadours widely with the poetry/music group Los Lorcas, whose debut release Last Night in America is available on Thunder Ridge Records.

Header photo by Engel Ching, courtesy Shutterstock.


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