On September 5, 2014, NPR ran an essay by critic Juan Vidal titled, “Where Have All the Poets Gone?” which questioned whether American poets still produce political work, and suggested that “literary [political] provocation in America is . . . at a low.” Because I find this assessment of contemporary American letters to be very incomplete, I wanted to take the opportunity to create a dialogue on the subject by curating a series of compelling political poems from contemporary American poets. I christened this series “Political Punch” as an affectionate reflection on the cocktail of poets who decided to honor me with their participation in my little Infoxicated Corner; it was intended to celebrate the glorious mix of poetics, voices, and life experiences all being shaken and stirred into a sense of community and conversation, being distilled into burning gulps of experience for the reader. Leaving aside all the boozed-up metaphors, it was also intended to celebrate my experience of American letters, in all their willingness and ability to pack a political punch.
Today, poet and translator EJ Koh deconstructs the Pledge of Allegiance, interrogating the concepts of nationalism, identity, allegiance, and speech itself.
Pledge of Allegiance
I am the country of myself, liberty and justice
for all, and my country cannot apologize anymore.
When my mother tells me, under allegiance:
Be happy! When you smile happiness is chase you –
her language is a hand she lays on my head.
Time swings by the front of our lives and doesn’t undress itself,
will not bathe itself. You cannot pity a baby for which it can’t stand
one nation, under god. The type of people I am,
300 million times over:
I pledge to the flag just-wet with jet fuel
from the Hubblescope of the United States of America:
Good news: Protestor dies from fumes of burning flag.
Pistachios undergo spontaneous combustion. The grenade
hand-made from YouTube comments to the republic
for which it stands, Jurassic Park, under god,
indivisible. Pick one for all. God is 65 million years away.
Looking into a telescope at earth,
he sees dinosaurs. We stare at Mayan temples
and they are giant loudspeakers.