America, I have a confession to make. I don’t recognize you anymore.
Years gone, wasted, with interludes where we tried to pick up where we left off but we were never on the same page
America they will say we grew apart, but you and I know better than that.
We were over a long time ago and we kept it up for appearances so that neither one of us would have to explain.
America this is a long time coming and you can’t be surprised, we haven’t spoken in ages
You don’t answer my calls and I don’t read your letters
You don’t recognize me any more than I don’t recognize you
We both know this is mutual.
America, I always knew there was something off about you but I could never put my finger quite on it
You watch too many movies, with perfect heroes and perfect villains. And then you take black and white photos and you say it’s dramatic but I think deep down you love to see things in black and white because
it’s so much easier, isn’t it?
America you’re exhausting. You always have to have the first and last word and you seem unwilling to acknowledge the remote possibility that it isn’t all about you
America, I have a confession to make. I faked it every time.
You were popular and rich and successful and everyone told me I should be lucky that you wanted me, with my wide hips and pock-marked skin. They told me I should be grateful, that I’d never do better than you.
You told me not to worry about a thing, that you’d take care of me and I believed you
But when you took me out to dinner I saw the way you treated the waiters and busboys, how you sent your food back and complained and I don’t think there was anything wrong with your food, I think you just liked to
watch them dance for you
You said you’d take care of them too and they believed you too and you’d always get the best table, too. But you were never a very good tipper and I could barely swallow my food because you would say that they were lucky you didn’t call immigration on them and your words made everything acrid
And then America, I woke up in a haze with you on top of me thrusting and suffocating and holding me down and I couldn’t fight you off and so I stopped trying because you were bigger and stronger and I didn’t want to make you mad because I know about your temper
So I said nothing, and became complicit.
Because I knew there were others, before and after me and many of them hadn’t and wouldn’t be so lucky to survive you but who could I tell? Who would listen?
America I feel your breath on me still now and it comes to me, it smacks me and beats me down all over again and it reminds me what it’s like to be loved by you, to be held by you, to be taken care of by you you think that those bruises go away when you come through the door with flowers and wine
“I walked into a door”
“I was asking for it”
“Stop making a scene”
“Innocent men and women do not confess”
“You were probably doing something wrong anyway”
America you were always so careful. Never on the face. You are getting sloppy.
And when the sun rose you brought me for a tour of your shining city on the hill and didn’t tell me that it was built on bodies that you discarded like trash and when I found out you just shrugged because you were too proud of the view from up there
It wasn’t a secret. Just an omission. And then I was complicit, because I stood there too long.
America, why did you tear down Seneca Village? Couldn’t you plant your trees just a little further to the East?
You planted your trees and fed me the fruit even when it was rotting and infested with vermin. When I asked you, “if they’re all bad apples doesn’t it mean that the tree is infected, and dying?” you pretended not to hear me and kept planting, kept picking, kept seeding because I think you liked watching that noxious flesh sway
how did you get such a taste for such strange fruit?
America go home, you’re drunk! You’re playing the fool and every minute you stay you make it awkward for the rest of us.
America I have a confession to make, I stole these words and this tempo but I spoke with Allen during a midnight invocation and he said he didn’t mind but about you he said,
he is not angry, just disappointed.
Stunned, but not surprised.
But oh my dear America,
I don’t hate you and that makes it worse
America, this is why it’s tough love I still recall your moments of brilliance and kindness
My brother and his family still live down the block and by all accounts you are a decent neighbor and you’ve even lent him your tools
Samy and I still talk about the road trips and how much fun we had
And I remember when you held my head in your lap and read Whitman aloud to me and the sun passed over us and you sang out about our multitudes, and how we could contradict ourselves but
You won’t protect your neighbor with a mask but you’ll protect yourself with a hood and
Black men keep getting killed in their cars and
Children are watching their mothers die and
this isn’t what he meant, I am sure.
America no one is asking you to be perfect, you are a body made of flesh after all,
and the last thing anyone needs is another white woman prone to rambling but,
I need to say this.
America you better mean it this time because your lines of credit are drying up and it is harder to get you invited to parties
Your radiant folly is visible for thousands of miles in the night sky and your halo is fading but there’s smoke and it’s too damn hot anyway, it’s gaseous and gurgling for air
and the fourth wall is the only one still standing
America take off your clothes
they are on fire and you are burning
and maybe it’s time to burn.
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