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Friday, February 01, 2008


by David Thornbrugh

That’s my face up there on the billboard,
I’m an American selling the dream of a better onion,
umbrella, vote bleaching powder.
A country of stumps stolen from the natives,
roast turkeys falling from the sky at the touch of a button,
buffalo robes shedding squaw bones in the attic
with Grandpa’s medals from San Juan Hill –
what it means to be an American
written on the back of a gum wrapper.
That’s me reading the funny papers in the tail-gun turret
by the light of Hiroshima ,
Mandrake the Magician comparing capes with Superman
while Brenda Starr Girl Reporter peels back the wax paper
from another Pulitzer.
Sacco and Vanzetti bought soap powder for the dish towels
folded inside neon cardboard boxes,
a conveyer belt of platitudes that stretched from Plymouth Rock
to Catalina Island , hard truths about the Founding Fathers
that Snowshoe Thompson slogged past a gauntlet of wolves
to deliver to Sacramento .
I’m an American stabbing myself in the big toe with a plastic fork
for Rose Bowl parade floats exploding with a Memorex screech,
as American as Al Capone in Alcatraz counting the spirochetes
swimming his spinal cord.
I was born in mud where the Snake River meets the Platte
in the journals of Lewis and Clark giving away a mile of land
both sides of the railroads as far as the eye can see
and Madison Avenue can jingle, I learned how to play Monopoly
from Pontius Pilate, I have been baptized in a river of oil
and come up white as George Washington’s wig,
I wash my conscience in a Diebold voting machine,
the Manhattan Project spun me out into Las Vegas high noon gunslinger pose
but I hate French movies and breasts smaller than the Gettysburg Address.
That’s me behind the counter punching cash register keys coded with burgers, fries,
shakes so the tax is automatic, you don’t have to compute the minimum wages
a Daisy Cutter imposes on Baghdad ,
you don’t have to raise the fetuses floating in TV aquariums,
you don’t have to stand in toxic slop to your knees in a Chinese prison shop
painting in a Teletubby’s baby blues or peel the orange jumpsuit
off a Guantanamo Bay torture hamster.
I learned to read by the light of Atlanta in flames,
I pay babysitters forty acres and a mule,
I won’t eat a strawberry that wasn’t picked by an illegal alien.

David Thornbrugh currently writes from South Korea, where he teaches English in a National University . He writes to push back the darkness a little bit at a time, in the same flighty manner as lightning bugs. He has been published in numerous small press journals, and once wrote the questions for a geography textbook. He prefers multiple choice questions to True/False.