Crossing America: July 4,2005
I see small nations within its cities,
neighborhoods of people
who dream of happiness in myriad languages, and
who love America no less
because they cannot yet use the magic tongue.
A tenth generation American,
with roots that can be traced to
I wait in line
for a hamburger and milkshake with people who come from
the other side of the world,
still learning how it is done in the land of dreams.
I hear children pledge fealty to our flag
and hope that what sometimes is
an exercise in thoughtless ceremony
will produce adults with unshakeable commitment
to what that flag represents.
I feel the never ceasing breeze that sweeps
the prairies of our good fortune,
hear the soft whistle of wind through the tall
grasses of the Dakotas,
see the hot brown exhaust of Nebraska-baked feed lots
blowing east to mingle with the smoke from
the stacks of Gary and Elizabeth.
I mistake the mountains on the horizon
for storm clouds, and am struck dumb
by the massive Rocky Mountain wall of sandstone and shale,
once an ocean bottom,
that rises up like a monolithic Wall of China
from the flat, legend crusted plains
of Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana.
I am light headed, not only from the thin air above the tree line
in the Saw Tooth, the Wind River, the Tetons,
but the beauty of the twisted mountain pines,
the shriveled Douglas fir that have been raised by
never ending winds on the heights of the Continental Divide.
I hide from the desert heat of Utah and Nevada
in my air-conditioned car and
welcome the stops at mid-desert oases
of one-armed bandits and neon lights.
I crest the peaks of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada,
see reflections of the sun glinting off waves in the ocean
that bounds the western end of the land of freedom.
I feel its pulse in cities and small hamlets,
am comforted by the warmth of its people,
am lifted up by the common love of liberty
and the universal dream of peace.
I am in a car without a yellow ribbon
that says, 'Support our troops.'
How could I not? They are my sons,
They are white, black, yellow, red.
They are my children.
As I travel across America,
l thank the god
who created such beauty,
who nurtured a nation born in defiance of tyranny
and dedicated to justice and equality.
And I marvel at my good fortune
to live in this time, in this land, with these people