We call America the land of the free, but hasn’t it become the land of the powerful? They chase after underage women then sweep it under the rug. They grab women by the genitals, or at least claim they can. The powerful purchase elections, or try to, anyhow. The powerful take and take and take and leave the rest of us to clean up their messes, sometimes the bodies. America—some have called it a Christian nation. I’m not sure what that means anymore. The Haines family retreated into the heart of the Ozarks a few weeks ago, hid in the heart of the stone. With no cell reception and spotty internet connections, we did what came naturally. Skip rocks across shallow pools in the near-dried out creek bed. Watch herons and kingfishers hunt in those same pools. Kick up dust on a long walk down a dirt road. Bathe in the musk of black walnut husks. Watch the paint run laps through the ragweed. Be.
The natural world is a gentler place, somehow freer than the world tethered to media, to CNN, Twitter, Facebook, this blog. The natural world is every epiphany that matters. It is a garden.
I followed my sons down a country road, and considered the world we’re giving them. It’s bleak, even in the beauty of autumn. And in that contemplation, I jotted a few notes about my hopes for them, about the things I hope they learn. Those notes became the first draft of this poem.
To My Sons #4 Life—a thousand presents to pull from packages to take, to own, to show. The Successful motivated me, us, them, everyone, with words and slogans: Yours for the taking; Bull by the balls; Women for the Victors. They lied through chubbied cheeks, taking our ambition first, Our money next, our dignity finally.
Sons, I could teach you to use those lies for advantage—yours, ours. But this is dignity: remember the joy in the diving kingfisher; laugh at the blue heron belch; mourn the bleaching crawfish carcass; taste wild honey. Know how the world of the men named Success is not this world at all. It was never mine or yours; it is ours and our sons, and it’s not for taking but for giving.
***FEED THE BEAST***
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