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All Poetry & Nothing But

Three Poems
by Gwendolyn Albert

my mother sends a flag

a black sunflower
blooms on manila
against the bulletin board
of my childhood

war is not healthy
for children and other
living things

wry comment
turned trite
by arching birdie

graphic and logo

from the gold-tipped dowel
hangs the flag

above the chalk tray
next to the classroom phone

we stand and syllabize
hands on hearts

some parents tell their kids
not to under God
not part of their plan

it is 1972
in Oakland, California,
United States of America

the Symbionese Liberation Army
shoots Dr. Foster
Superintendent of
the Oakland Public Schools

I am a tiny child
on a bench in the Oakland
Auditorium my mother
is sobbing beside me

another childhood moment
I didn’t understand:
Nixon resigning
the flag like folds of curtain
beside him

Dad plays a 45
of the men on the moon
their flag flat as metal
in the solar wind

television brings us
many burning flags

some burned by Americans
in camouflage and wheelchairs

some by men in nightgowns
who seem very excited

does not compute

familiar background image
all 35 years of my life

the tragedy
takes the nickname

of the number we dial
for emergencies

some months later
my mother sends a flag

I live in Europe now
and later on the phone

she says she felt defensive
putting it in the envelope

it arrives with a crease


sometimes our flag
has a golden fringe
around it

bright orange-yellow fringe
like a Number 2 pencil

a friend teaches grade school
I give her the flag

for her European classroom
one flag among many

their primary colors
their black
and white

I felt defensive too
opening that envelope
holding the stars and stripes

America far away
from the hope

of that girl
with her hand
on her heart

liberty and justice
for all
on her lips

for all
for all
for all


outside the leaves
fibrillating in
the distance
staggered squares
a pixilated veil
over the face
of the witness

justice is a Barbie doll
to the poor rich man
with a taste for uniforms
and pain

releasing in exasperated tones
from behind the dead animal
on the desk
through the lantern jaw
the craggy voice
of the righteous
the civilizer,
cutter and

gasping out his foregone
conclusion facing
his deadline

and outside the leaves
are so high and paper-thin
yellow on blue sky
tiny flecks
against the ark
of the world


totally unexplained
above the counter
at the truck rental

a handpainted sign
like at a demonstration
magenta on electric blue:



driven by the menu
to hunt and gather
to off ramp on ramp
to travel in circles
to go the wrong direction
then double back
not soaring like a bird
maneuvering like a wasp
full body slamming
against the


one leaf after another
curling like a tongue
shivering in the wind
constellations of leaves
in the distance
staggered squares
of tower blocks swaying
like licorice ropes
nibbled by a
guilty dentist


behind my eyelids
the leaves still shimmer
descending circles
radiating outward
elapsing away

from the world
to the language
to the sequence of strokes
to the pages stacked
and squared
oh show me
the text that
blooms every year
like a tree


take a fresh breath of ether, leaf
the air keeps going you burn
the fire sweats water you run
the earth abides

the light
scorches all

the ignorant armies
the moths
the rust

out of nowhere (Paradise Park)

Traveled days
of scary

desert spaces
to the statue

by tank slow
minutes spent

staging the photo
were televised

mixed message
desultory crowd

all male
just lingering

like extras
at the scene

later termed

before looting
set in

the Marine
fumbled the flag

this time round
first dead soldier

in US uniform
born out of nowhere

in a small foreign
target of American

interest way back
in the 20th century.

This time his life ends
on the road

to Paradise Park.
Orphan of the conquered

caught by border guards
dies citizen-soldier.

The enemy was closer
than he knew.


lightning cacophony
of rain

colored sand
a mandala

order and beauty

exactly as much
as there is

is more than


falling backwards
over the waterfall

of time
of age

the spray
and mist

the rocks
the sky

falling backwards
life after life

until we learn
to dive


the enemy is arming
the spaces between

the stars
there are statues

in orbit
flying tanks

lobsters boiling
on the bottom

of the sea
icebergs calving

a time of spectacular

cacophony elaborate


the war flew backwards
like a vacuum

and underneath the water
was a dune

its time was specific
as gravity

funnel sifting
its place

in the order.
The place is marked.

It cannot
be stopped.


You thought
we already

fell from

but those
were tales

of the future.
Desert spaces

will soon
surround us

in battle plans

and clumsy drama.
To escape

the uniform
embrace of the

stars we must

not rocket
but dive

into the drought,
float for

many lives
return out of nowhere

as the raindrops,
man and woman

as the flood
as the boat.


All Poetry & Nothing ButClash of CivilizationsEC ChairFeatured PoetsForeign DeskGalleryStage
Hedonism: Theory & PracticeLetters & GlossolaliaArt of MarriageMoney TalkPets & BeastsZounds

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