“Villanelle for America 2016” by Katie Bickham

Katie Bickham


The American machine is far from broken,
but grinding bones the way it was designed.
No quiet now will hush the thing we’ve woken.

We try to pray, to pledge, to scream, but choke in
terror of the ledge we teeter on. Resigned,
we whisper low, America the Broken

come crown thy good with thorns, an oaken
anthem like a cage. We have been blind
and deaf to this red thing we’ve woken.

Wake up. While you were sleeping, hate has spoken
its own name and named us too, in kind.
The American machine is well-oiled, broken

in by centuries of bigots armed and cloaked in
stars and stripes. The flag sags in the wind,
rung out and hung to dry by what we’ve woken.

I voted today, protected what I could. The token
clanged in the machine. The man standing behind
me would undo it. Send your tired, your broken
somewhere else. Tell them to run from what we’ve woken.

Poets Respond
November 15, 2016

[download audio]


Katie Bickham: “One of the reactions that has been the most galling to me regarding the election is shock. People are saying that our system is broken for a man like Donald Trump to be president. But the truth is, the system is working exactly as it was designed to, protecting the kinds of people who built it.” (website)

Rattle Logo