America

Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
In first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
And say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first-grade hearts
We felt proud to be part of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
Maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule days
When we learned how to behave in America

What to wear how to smoke how to despise our parents
Who didn’t understand us or America

Only later understanding the Banner and the Beautiful
Lived on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering this land is two lands
One triumphant bully one hopeful America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
Somehow or other still carried away by America

Alicia Ostriker’s most recent collection is The Book of Seventy (2009). She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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