for Barbara Mor
In place of the old dream
and the old lies,
I wish for my country of origin
a new story,
one that goes like this:
We rode roughshod,
we drove pedal to the metal,
we blew our own cylinders.
We squeezed the life from all
we could lay hands on,
converted our kill into currency,
bowed low before the greenback god we made.
Then — an inch from extinction —
in the midst of brawling, bawling,
blowing each other away,
we woke from our nightmares.
Watched the sun rise.
Said this is a good day to live.
We started to share food
and keep house.
It was astonishing
how quickly the tall-grass prairie,
intricate forest that bends with the wind,
Astonishing how quickly the milkweed pods shot up
and the monarchs laid ever more eggs on them
and the great butterfly migration strengthened.
Astonishing when legions of Canada geese flew south again,
barking and writing long flat V’s in the sky.
and the earth under our feet
decided to live.
It was that definitive,
that clear a turning.
− Harriet Ann Ellenberger, February 2012
Note: “Sunrise Over the USA” was first published, with working notes, on Return to Mago, 1 October 2012.