“Elegy” by David Miller

David Miller


America, I just don’t know anymore
I came to your house; the front door hung open; inside were paper
hats and sweet Kentucky whiskey; the walls streaked with red and
blue hand prints; confetti carpeted the floor; the t.v. sang to me;
the radios, too
America, I heard your dogs growling, golden retrievers,
America, I want a place to live, I want to play in unmarbled snow,
I scoot through hallways, voices sometimes bleat or shine through
the walls, LED-whitened, nothing is ever dark enough
America, my phone calls to me, a voice from another room,
footsteps in the rain-worsted night, tells me to hush, to love,
Everthings goina be awright, it snarls,
America, am I going crazy? America, are you yowling at me?
America, when did Nancy Reagan grow old? How was she still alive?
America, you make no sense to me—when did you start bleaching your hair?
when did you start wearing blue and brown? Why do you dye your eyes?
Where is the flat white light my television has promised?
The picture so clear, the darkness so deep?
Why have you become so black
and white, America? I drive to school, I teach Caesar and virtue,
my students are ochre, ecru, pink, cinnamon, carmelized Cabernet,
the long leaf wrapping of a Romeo y Julieta, the last sip of morning
coffee just touched by half-and-half, the crust of cheese on my wife’s
bibingka (so sweet, so pliable), why have you ignored the rest of us,
Some say you taste of sauerbraten and winter beer,
but I hear the faint rustle of banana leaves,
of sentences that only at their ornate ends erupt into meaning,
like old Cicero’s fevered speeches,
or the slow-download of Mishima’s novels.
America, you are a mask, worn down to gold: you hide yourself well
by dancing, by political debate that rubs your arms against mine,
your legs against mine, that open to me, like the the sun to the flat
earth, spinning around, engulfing me in a you
I once dreamed—
This is what you promised me,
America, in eighth grade,
Mrs. Tidemacher told me of the American dream,
she said you were rubies and sapphires,
she said you were Tarzan and Giant Robot,
she said you were a poor peanut farmer turned governor
she said in America, even a failed movie actress could become first lady

I heard you crying, I ran through the abandoned fields
and across the broken onramps, the fences with their hems
of grocery bags, the eyes of abandoned houses, bruised
or silent in the beyond, I ran when I heard you crying
like a phone, no one told me how alone you are,
I reassured myself, I said you were Christmas snow
and familiar sitcoms, the smell of a wife’s hair, a husband’s
shaving cream, I was almost asleep when I found you
not crying, but laughing, wiping your boot off
the spray can on its side, the paint sloughing down
the side of my house: Brotherhood In Christ.

America, I have come to bury you, not to praise you
I want to see whether you stay buried, or how long you will stumble
about in the off-brown wheat, or by blue-green rice paddies, or in
all the colors you used to wear (Joseph is looking for his coat
somewhere, tell him not to come, he won’t be allowed here),
I want to see who lays the last bullet in your head

America, I’ve awoken
I am rage, I am sorrow,
America, I just don’t know
what I am to you anymore.

Poets Respond
March 13, 2016

[download audio]


David Miller: “This poem comes from the recent death of Nancy Reagan, from everyone calling her a great lady. She was; she terrified me.” (website)

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