Nation and God piped-in as afterthought

“July 5th” and two other poems by Marjorie Maddox

July 5th

  • All the flag-clad oohs and ahhs fizzle
  • just past midnight, a slight singe of burn
  • hovering over today: patriotic hangover
  • with stars and stripes banging about in brains
  • that never OK’d reciting names and dates
  • in 4th grade History. Such a dazzling,
  • distracting explosion: all that reality behind
  • the pomp, so ceremoniously like that other
  • season’s parade: winter’s green/red (the frigid
  • red/white/blue) pa-rum-pa-pum-pummed
  • into “Little Drummer Boy” with only tepid recognition
  • of the day’s conviction. Holy Mother
  • of Jefferson, the fireworks’ dizzy outbursts
  • of Me! Me! Me! reveal our belief in nothing
  • but the day’s commemoration, the morning after’s
  • leftover hot dogs or eggnog a hodgepodge of forgotten births:
  • nation and God piped-in patriotically
  • as afterthought for the background.

Analogy, maybe

  • In this fact or fiction,
  • this fabricated equation, I have faith.
  • It was like this: May, the first sunny day after storms,
  • dust ricocheting off the Little League ballfield,
  • our maple ecstatic,
  • tossing its confetti seeds in the swirl;
  • everywhere the air of epiphany,
  • the spinning promise of what’s to-come
  • coming evenly to earth,
  • across just-cut grass,
  • lawn chairs, tanning skin.
  • Substitute manna, sand,
  • maybe.

Backwards Barn Raising

  • Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, October 2006
  • And what can we do but wail with you,
  • grief burning back to ashes,
  • those splintered schoolroom boards
  • that heard the bullets?
  • Flames hot enough to melt the nails —
  • now and then —
  • rise up in our eyes; we hear
  • that ancient hammer thud
  • echo, “Eli, Eli,
  • lama sabachthani…”
  • Can what is lost be leveled?
  • You hold each other’s hands,
  • huddle in an unending circle,
  • “….as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
  • Even out of this,
  • you build forgiveness.

Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and director of Creative Writing and professor of English at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published ten collections of poetry — including True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else (Wipf and Stock); Transplant, Transplant, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award) — the short-story collection What She Was Saying (2017 Fomite), and over 450 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), Maddox also has published two children’s books with several forthcoming soon. For more information, see marjoriemaddox.com.

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