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Monday, January 21, 2013


by J.R. Solonche

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for not inviting me to read
at your inaugural.

Believe me, when I heard that that other poet,
that Blanco, got the nod, I was relieved.

Let me tell you, I spent days and days,
weeks in fact, occupied with nothing but America,

I steeped myself in America,
I breathed America, I ate America, I slept America,

I studied maps of America, that familiar two-handled shape,
I gazed at pictures of grain in amber waves,

I read the Declaration, I read the Constitution,
I read the Gettysburg Address, twenty times, I read Jefferson,

I read Adams, I read de Tocqueville, I read Franklin, I read Paine,
I read Huckleberry Finn, I read Moby Dick,

I read The Scarlet Letter, I read An American Tragedy,
I read Walt, I read Ralph Waldo, I read Emily,

I read Wallace, I read Robert, I read William Carlos,
I looked at every Norman Rockwell calendar I could find,

I looked at every Mathew Brady photograph I could find,
I listened to Gershwin, I listened to Ellington, I listened to Joplin,

I listened to Presley, I listened to Ives,
I listened to The New World Symphony, three times a day,

I rented every John Wayne movie I could find,
I ate potatoes three times a day, I ate corn three times a day,

I ate apple pie three times a day,
I drank bourbon, I drank hard cider.

And after all this saturation in America,
when I sat down to write an inaugural poem,

Mr. President, I drew a zero, nothing came,
the only word I could write was the one word America,

so what did I do? Let me tell you, I just started Yankee-
doodling around to see if anything would inspire me,

but all I got was acirema and I am acer and race aim and am Erica
and I care, ma, or Ma, I care.

So thank you Mr. President, for not inviting me
to read at your inaugural. Let Blanco do it. I’m a blank.

J.R. Solonche

J.R. Solonche is co-author (with wife Joan Siegel) of Peach Girl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). His poems have appeared in many magazines, journals, and anthologies since the 1970s. He teaches at SUNY Orange in Middletown, New York.