The Story: Warren Peace finds this poem on a blog:
Looking for America
I’ve come to look for America
but I can’t find her anywhere.
I looked on her front porch,
but the boards were rotted through,
I looked in her back yards
but the grass was overgrown,
I drove past her wheat fields,
but they’d all been left unplowed,
just wooden signs that stretched to the sky
standing by the roadside, saying
Zoned for Commercial or Residential
I went looking in the factories,
but the factories were all closed down,
just workers stripping windows and
cleaning the bricks,
and putting in the studs to
build condominium walls.
I went looking in the train stations,
but America was not there,
just some ragged Army jackets
that she’d left behind as blankets
of the veterans who sleep there.
I went looking on the coasts
out on the Gulf seas,
but all the shrimp boats were pulled in
and the nets were hanging empty.
I went looking in the forests
but all the trees were burning,
from casually tossed off cigarettes
that touched the tinder into flames.
I went driving down the highways,
across the mid and coast to coast,
thought I’d find her in a diner
over scrambled eggs and toast,
but the coffee there was bitter
and the pancakes were too dry,
and America hadn’t even left a tip
for the waitress with the swollen eye.
I went looking for America
but America had left town,
she’d pulled the blinds on the shop windows
after the Main Street had all closed down.
I stood on the flat mountain top
that had been stripped off for coal,
and looked across the painted desert
at the city in the sooty fold,
I knew I’d never find America
in the shadows of the scrapers of the sky,
because she’d sold off every lease
to any foreigner who’d buy,
and those left to die in the alleyways
from drugs smuggled in cracks
across borders from lands of distant suns,
America had long since romanticized
her Tin Pan Alley Slums.
But all that’s left of America now,
are just a handful of American tunes,
some scattered fragments of melodies
of songs no longer sung.
I went looking for America
But couldn’t find her anywhere,
just a ragged tri-colored blanket
she’d left draped across an
old wooden rocking chair
that stands upon that front porch
with the boards all rotted through.
Warren thinks of his grandmother, living all alone in a house built against an old historic lighthouse on the coast of Maine. She’s lived there alone for the last fifteen years, with only her last surviving son, his uncle, looking in on her intermittently.
She is old now: decrepit, and blind. Every phone call ends with her rage against a God who took away two of her three sons. "A mother is supposed to go before her children. How can I love a God who did this to me?"
Warren would like to think that it is out of respect for his grandmother that he doesn't try to reassure her, but he knows that it really is because he doesn't have anything that he could say that would make her feel any differently, or any better.
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