Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Kevin Patrick Hodgkiss writes

They Came

They came
With their hands holding
On the backs of moving trains
From a burning desert
With a burning desire
Promises hang on refugee claims.
A telephone number
In the back pocket
Maybe the ticket to stay
For a crumb off the pie
Of the American Dream
They came all this way.

They put their hands up
America. Surrendering.
They put their hands up
Is there no room at the inn?

They stood
With their hands holding
Locked in a blocking line
On a busy street
With a bloody stain
No answers for a questionable crime.
A mother’s tears.
One dropped-out tomorrow
And a dangerous mix
Of anger and sorrow.

They came hands folded
Like in prayer
Like in pleading
There’d be no receiving
They been deceived.
Hope meet hate

They put their hands up
America. Defiance.
They put their hands up

Is the same justice not theirs? 

They prayed
With their hands high
Reaching from sacred ground
Black skin
Red blood
Dangerous coil unwound
A loaded barrel
Flesh to marrow
Spurred to call by a dirty flag.

Prayer interrupted
But still unsilenced
Forgiveness pours like
A soothing salve
On a burn that fights to sting.

They put their hands up
America. Forgiveness.
Your son. Your guns.

False lures
Come in fists of promise
Clenched with thorn by fear.

So crown thy good
America. O America.
And shining seas
Hail and gleaming.
Gallantly fray.
O say.

Can you see?
 Image result for immigrant images


  1. At the end, the poem riffs off of two well-known patriotic lyrics. Katherine Lee Bates, an English Literature professor at Wellesley College, was teaching a summer course at Colorado College in 1893, where she was inspired to draft a poem entitled "Pikes Peak;" as "America," it was published in the Independence Day issue of "The Congregationalist" in 1895, but she continued to tinker with the lyrics until at least 1913. However, a revised version that appeared in the "Boston Evening Transcript" in 1904 became the basis for the song. In 1882, on a ferry from Coney Island, Samuel Ward, organist and choirmaster at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey, had written a tune, "Materna," intending it as a setting for the hymn, "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem," though it was not published until 1892. In 1910, seven years after Ward's death, a publisher put his music to her poem, resulting in the song, "America the Beautiful."

    O beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of grain,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited plain!
    America! America!
    God shed his grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea!

    The song, however, that was chosen (in 1931, two years after Bates' death) to be the national anthem was the older, more martial "Star-Spangled Banner." In 1814, the British fleet, fresh from their sacking of Washington, DC, was bombarding Ft. McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. A young lawyer, Francis Scott Key, had been sent to negotiate a prisoner exchange and was himself temporarily kept hostage aboard the British flagship. After a tense night, Key saw the American flag still aloft and was inspired to write a journalistic poem, "Defence of Fort M'Henry," describing the event, for which he borrowed heavily from an earlier poem he had written, "When the Warrior Returns," commemorating heroes from the First Barbary War. Key's brother-in-law noticed that the words matched the melody of a popular drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven," written in the 1770s by the British composer and musicologist John Stafford Smith. (Anacreon had been a 6th-century BCE lyric poet noted for his odes on drinking and other sensual pleasures.) After the song was published in several papers across the nation, Thomas Carr printed it under the title "The Star Spangled Banner." Several versions were used over the next century, but in 1917 an official arrangement was made by Walter Damrosch, Will Earhart, Arnold J. Gantvoort, Oscar Sonneck, and John Phillip Sousa.

    Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
    What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
    O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
    And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
    Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

    1. :))) I can only dream to be such a master with words. Thank you sir for sharing my words.


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