May the barbecue bless America.
May the cornfields, scarecrows smiling.
May every alleyway witness
to the night’s murderous
tendencies. May the street-lamps bless
America. May the flagpoles in Harlem
and Atlanta, redwood trees north
of San Francisco, waterfalls
in upper Alabama. May the state roads
of Kentucky curve from Tennessee,
from Memphis and the Blues
that make you think these hearts
are watermelon. May the watermelon bless.
May the tomato and onion, rice, hard
orange root named carrot—may the thirst
of cactus bless America. May our canyons
tell us how much can be filled
but how much has been carved away.
May the desert’s reptilian eyes
remind us of the word cold-blooded, as if
we have been ice or glaciers melting
into Great Lakes remembered
by thinking of home. May the eyes
cut into every totem pole
teach us about our brothers and sisters
as if our own eyes of green and black
are carved from a great universal body.
May the flowers leaning on headstones
in our cemeteries bless, even if
they cannot bring us back.
May the birdbath bless.
May a field in Northwest Indiana
of green and yellow grasses.
Each flag flown without wind,
may the red and white be muscles
and bones working together
with starlit sky. May the dogs bark
their wolf dialect. May we look again
after we have uncovered the spider
beneath the stone, after speaking
in the moon’s ear to find no one listens.
May the caterpillar not die cocooned.
May the cocoon be a window, world
like womb where a heart is always
nearby, in your ears and on your lips.
May our mouths refill with words.
May our teeth fossilize, our jaws
now evidence, and slide from detective
to detected. May the antelope
and moose, may the buffalo bless.
May every barn, straw floors
and wooden beams, contain one ghost.
May we wake with the smell of jasmine
in our nostrils. May the gardenias bloom
and may a child put her nose to the center
and may this not hurt. May she close her eyes
and dream: of a life she will not rewrite
one day, every word remembered like birthday,
every kiss begun slow, meaning
I have waited to find you
because I have waited to find me.
Every time the candle wax kneels
before the air: may a cave
know body spelunking.
When a mirror sparks: may bird
crack its eggshell skin.
May grizzly bears remember their uncles.
May the woman behind the counter
named Mary be a mother to someone
even if her body can’t give birth.
May the man with an axe think
of his mother as a shockwave
shakes through tree. May the men
reading books on law and revolution,
end beginning in the middle of history,
may they remember the founding fathers.
Powdered wigs. Claims of equality.
Those cabins and estates
that never lacked a leader.
May I say now, where the light
is a mixture of dungeon and ocean:
our ears are not ready to hear
the song we’ve tried to write.
Listen to the trees. Listen
to your grandfather, even if
he was wrong, even if he’d been wronged
by people he was wrong about.
We are not so different, you and I,
glazed over with midnights spread out
against a sky where the question
has not yet been answered.
I do not know what happens
when it’s over. Once
I stepped on an ant, and I believed
when you’re done, you’re done.
But I do not know who will breathe
this breath tomorrow. I do not know
if the tiger will dance, if the crane
will pluck its own feather and write
with the ink of an octopus
the story of its flight. How it rose
through wind. How it felt like angel
and came down, shucking the dust
off its wings as if even the remnants
of others gathering upon you
will not stay. Even when you are dead
and gone, collecting in the lion’s mane.
Even then it will patrol the savannah.
Will float and settle like driftwood.
Will be brought to wherever
these galactic spinning arms say
Stop. Rest here.
Margaret Graber is a writer and poet originally from Northwest Indiana. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Duende, Atticus Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Toad, and others. A former radio D.J. and environmental educator, she most recently lived and worked at a farm on the Eel River in Northern California..