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Monday, July 19, 2010


by Elizabeth Swados

You present yourself in a
wide doublebreasted suit
portly like Alec Baldwin
playing a self-important role
(is he playing?)
and you’ve been at this a long time.
At the video games
eating instant foods
sending naked babies over
all too secret internet sites.
America you present yourself
as sure of yourself with your
arms held out, “Who me?”
I see the sweat around your collar
I see where your left sock has a hole. You
smell of too many colognes
and deodorants
they’ve mashed into a
rank sweet combination
of blood and rust.
America you present yourself
with a clean young smile of hope
and I do pray it is real
but the center of your brain is programmed
into repeated patterns
of electric betrayal and crime
and who can break the repetition?
The brain of you moves smoothly
like a European train and it runs
over the limbs of Arabic children,
African boys and women,
men hold machine guns out windows
and fire blindly into
the shattered windows of tenements
and schools and hospitals.
America, you present yourself in
acquiescence, you beg forgiveness
but you are twofaced. I am terrified
none of this exists
not the sorrow nor the wish
to turn around and actually see the
devastation you’ve left behind you.

Elizabeth Swados is an award winning author and composer; she is a Tony nominated, Obie award winning theater artist, Guggenheim and Ford Foundation recipient, as well as a Pen/Faulkner citation. Her latest book, At Play – Teaching Teenagers Theater, was published by Faber and Faber. Her other recent publications include: My Depression (Hyperion), and The Animal Rescue Store (Scholastic).  Her theatrical credits span from Broadway, to off-Broadway, to around the world including Runaways, Missionaries, and Jabu.  Her poetry has appeared in magazines such as Meridian Anthology, New American Writing, New York Quarterly, Emory's Journal, Confrontation, Paterson Literary Review, Speakeasy, Barrow Street, Runes and Home Planet. Her first book of poetry, The One and Only Human Galaxy, was released in April 2009.