America is an Only Child

America is an only child
it thinks
whelping for attention.
The whole world
a store of nannies waiting to meet
its needs.
All children are so beautiful
that we don’t hold against them
revolving around them.
They simply can’t
see things our way.

We look at a child,
and we feel hope
our every best instinct rising to the surface
oozing out of us.
It’s hard,
not to love
anything as perfect
as a person
completely there.

Why hold the hope out for children only?
Were we not all children once?
Do we not still have
somewhere
that trust, that hope?

But the grown up nations of the world
turn the television on
and tut tut as one does with the older child
making a mess in the sandbox and pushing the other kids out
of the way.
But we also
smile inside and enjoy the scene,
yearn a little for those days
when we didn’t know better but to be and play.
So we keep watching the television
and escape for a moment

the heavy burden
of respectability.

America is a big brother
winning all the punching contests
that he thought up anyway.
But still you swing out
with your arm sore
wanting to beat him
hating him.
The teasing hurts,
but it hurts more when he locks the

door to his room, listening to records
with the headphones on.
Maintaining there’s things you just
don’t understand.
Not there when you want to play

but he still
fights the guy who
keeps taking your lunch money.
You know another way
to walk to school but
you don’t take it.
It feels so good
when he shows up
that you chance missing lunch.

America is a surly teenager
hands on hips, yelling
‘You’re not the boss of me’
eating cookies for breakfast
and tromping through the flowerbeds.
‘I can drink if I want to
I can read that if I want to
I can have a bb gun if I want to
I can stay out all night if I want to
You’re not the boss of me.’

One fall day
with the air filled with sweet sorrow and chill and
back-to-school,
the rite of passage flies into him.

You didn’t see it coming
You’d forgotten about it
doesn’t Peter always find Neverland
and we don’t make sacrifices any more
that’s some ancient story the Hebrews told
about more literal days
before we became so much more civilized
with writing and television and such
But you can’t stop the pain
or the blood
basic, ancient, eternal.
Internet promises
and daily dreams
now a silly distraction from
what is real.

And you weep and mourn at the shock and the loss
And want to take back
every bad wish ever uttered at the locked door or
those damned records.
But being needed
fills you with elation.
You understand all at once
the perfection and beauty of giving

and you take a small comfort in the this strange new feeling
now there’s space to give
now that America weeps
now you can dry
his tears.

America is your only child
taking his time to grow up.
But no matter how it was longed
and wished for in those brattish moments
when he poured your favourite bottle of perfume
all over the new suede couch
no matter how many times you wanted him
to see things your way too
no matter how many days you prepared for it,
it’s still like a knife
ripping into you
like the knife that came
before he was plucked from your womb.
But the crying is not a joyful noise
and blood and flesh are not your own this time
though you would gladly give them
to spare him this pain
and the cord was cut long ago
and there is no way good enough
to let him understand
that you hurt
when he hurts
but maybe just a little bit more now you think
like a child to yourself
because there is nothing you can do.

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