i am not a patriot

if this poem

if this poem was a magpie
it would steal your jewelry
and leave you laughing

and if it was a feather
it would glide gently across
your exquisite face

if this poem was made of gold
my love would melt it into
a luminescent puddle

and if this poem was made of fire
it would keep you warm
all your days and nights

and you would never lose your way
because it would be a beacon
drawing you into your god-self

if this poem was a rose
its fragrance would mesmerize you
and its thorns trace lovely pain trails

and it would never wither or die
and it would always give you
just the right balance of agony and delight

if this poem was my hands
it would happily caress you only when
and whenever you wanted it to

and it would wear leather gloves
whenever you wanted a spanking
and hold you when it was over

if this poem was a balm
it would reach inside you
and soothe your deepest wounds

if this poem was the sea
it would carry you on its back
to all the continents of your ancestors

and it would rock you at night
while you slept with the sea lions
and planned your next adventure

if this poem was a book
whenever you opened it
you would learn whatever you needed to know

if this poem was a chariot
you would always ride in style
and there would always be room for friends

if this poem was a shirt
it would hug you and shape you painlessly
into the boy in your mind’s eye

and if it was a hat
it would keep you warm in winter
and never go out of style

if this poem was my eyes
it would always gaze on you
in wonder and awe

and if this poem was my tears
you would drink them and be healed
of all the shame this world has forced on you

and you would bathe in the saline water
and be cleansed of everything wrong
anyone ever said about you

and you would never believe their lies again
and you would know only grace
so that just your splendor would remain

if this poem was my love
it would fill this city with longing
and no one would go to work

and everyone would wander the streets
searching for the answer
to satisfy their soul’s sweet call
[trigger warning for violence, unhealthy abuse, recipe
and negative feelings about the united states]

i think my first act of rebellion against the united states was when i was seven and in second grade, and i refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance. looking back, it’s clear to me why i had even personal reasons to resent being forced to declare my loyalty to that scrap of cloth and all it represents, but what kind of thoughts does a seven year old think that necessitate such a refusal?

i suppose i’m a leftist, although i spend very little time in pursuit of the kinds of activities commonly associated with leftist politics. out of necessity, i spend most of my time at home, and my activism, as such, consists mostly of this blog and my other online projects. i know a lot of activists who feel anger around july 4th, but somehow the enthusiastic flag-waving just makes me really sad. the united states makes me incredibly sad.

when i was seven, i was already experiencing on several levels the vicious underside of american life. at night, i was abused at home and forced to participate in experiments that involved the torture of people (mostly children) and animals, and was encouraged to feel like a good citizen because i was “helping my country.” and in my neighborhood, the police were a constant threat and reminder that poor and brown folks in this country are second-class citizens.

i don’t know what the heartless brutality of my daily life meant to me, how i interpreted those realities through the lens of a seven year old. i wasn’t aware of the long and sordid history and continuance of settler colonialism, genocide, slavery, oppression, and imperialism that shapes my perspective now. but i do know that the day i refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance marked a beginning of a practice of resistance that shaped my young life and continues to this day.

(something else occurred to me. i wrote this at a time when being arab and unpatriotic wasn’t an actual crime as it is now. that makes me feel a little bit of fear about publishing this. but as audre lorde still reminds me from beyond: “it is better to speak/ remembering/ we were never meant to survive.”)

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