“Who Owns America?” by Robyn Schelenz

Robyn Schelenz


who owns america who could possibly own america
there are people who have never seen 50 states or even seven
can you own something you’ve never seen could they possibly own america
the people who see america in planes may think they own america
but the fields are the way they are because of the tractors next to the houses of the people in america
the roads next to the fields are used by other people who may own america
and who scoff at the plane as it goes by when they see it far, far above
but they are distracted does a distracted person own america
there is a man outside his house sitting on his heels smoking
far away from america maybe he owns america
he is thinking about it right now so much more than you have ever thought about it
so much wondering what the weather is like, what the trees are like,
what the fruit feels like
do they have my brand of cigarettes
he gets up thinking about america not worried about his investment
genuinely curious about america america is not used to being thought of that way
she shivers
there is a man named Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
in 1530 he walked across america
but even he didn’t think he owned america
it seems only the people who don’t spend much time in america
think they own america
they don’t get out much
they don’t ask anyone else
hey am i stepping on your america
which is how you would act
if you were from the suburbs and owned something
there hasn’t been much argument over some parts of america
they seem to be unwanted no one wants that america
but if you own america you too own america
you can’t only own a part or some of america
you have to own the whole america
it is like a common-law marriage
without the ceremony
i wish i could tell you more about who owns america
they are having a hard time finding the records
there is a lot of meaningless paperwork here
but outside the geese are flying
pull up a chair if you want
to observe them while you wait

from Poets Respond
September 8, 2020


Robyn Schelenz: “Stolen land. Stolen labor. Stolen cultures, appropriated or erased, or lost … In fact, our country’s name isn’t even properly ‘America.’ Post-convention blues, this is my reaction to the idea of people arguing about who owns America, as though such a thing could be owned. ‘America’ is an idea we all shape, inside and outside of our borders, through generations, moving through time and holding the potential for change. If any of us did own America, I would hope we would treat it with more love and compassion. All of it is ours to regard as clearly as we can. Anyone can pull up a chair, because you own your seat in America, and connect, as other creatures do, with America … whatever it is.”

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