“Of Thee I Sing” by Sarah Wells

Sarah Wells


In the mornings all I hear out here
is the chatter of a dozen beautiful
birds, the rustle of trees that change
to black as night turns leaves to stars.
I have sat here since dawn. Now fireflies
alight in place of birds, ignore my split rail fence,

float with no regard between our yards. This fence
has lost some posts. It keeps nothing out. Here,
all that trespasses on our property are these fireflies
and the neighbor’s flowers. Beautiful
bleeding hearts migrate indiscriminately, star-
bursts of beebalm like fireworks change

to seed, ride the summer breeze, exchange
the blue of forget-me-nots for red. If we built a fence,
how would our children chase their star-
trooper friends through the neighborhood? Out here,
we make manifest our patriotic hymns, O beautiful,
for spacious skies, for backyards filled with fireflies.

Tonight we set dead brush on fire, fly
scraps of burnt news heavenward, change
black and white to ash. It’s beautiful,
the bad news blooming into light. Our defense
against darkness is this burning and returning. Out here
we can forget the places where smog blots out the stars.

It’s easy. The TV blinks on and off and on, stars
marry, have babies, divorce, and die as fast as fireflies.
We choose our preferred cable news out here,
align with whatever variety of hope and change
won’t disturb our lawns. I mend my split-rail fence
because the way it keeps nothing out is beautiful,

it only contains, protects and defines my beautiful
property line. From here I breathe clean air, see stars
most nights, drive by headlight past the barbed wire fences
of a million other yards. At this speed, fireflies
flash and smear across my windshield. I change
my angle, drive left of center without fear out here.

I stoke these beautiful coals while fire flies
somewhere else. Up close, stars are perpetual change,
dynamite fenced by the silence out here.

Poets Respond
July 24, 2016

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Sarah Wells: “This poem is a reflection on the RNC, living in a rural area outside of Cleveland, and the ways we can insulate ourselves from the rest of the world.” (website)

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