This Is Not America by Raya Yarbrough


This is not America,
this is twisted wood in sand.
This is 10 million years
in this stone, in my hand.
This is the dirt beneath the factory.

Dirt beneath the church.
Dirt which holds, refractory
to governmental girth.
We drive and we stride
and we fall and we ride
without thought,
on the crumbled blood of mountains.

But this is not America,
these are fathoms and tides.
These are homes of loons and otters
only human hands divide.
This is the hiss of reeds
a sea above a sea,
an old spiritual, moaning,
in the language of the Hickory.
From ancient river spines
boils brine from the fault,
and we have forgotten ourselves,
as the children of salt.

But this is not America,
this is 5:09 pm
and the cobweb in the window
has caught fire again
in the lift of summer’s nothings,
spectral breaths which lift the weave
to breathe through phantom tendons
on the edge of this eve.

Now the wind chimes, now a shadow
following the ring,
none of these have ever been at war
with anything.
I call to this land
by the name given to it
by the Bear and the Orca,
by the fox and the crow.
The name we can hold in our hands
in the driftwood
but we can never know.