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Dirge for my country

My country, you are hurtling us into a dark
morass.In that old war, I understood
the Viet Cong better than I understood
the Pentagon.Alienated, at daily war
in the streets and movement lofts against
my government, yet I felt hope at least
sometimes that we were pushing hard
enough to birth a dream of equality.

Step by step those with stifled voices
those dealt day by day fresh wounds
in their minds, their backs, their cunts
their very skin punished for itself
moved a step closer to evident self
hood, a step closer to that picnic
in the sun of dignity on the grass
of survival, our cultures melding.

We seemed to be growing up slowly
to a willingness to listen to those
who don’t look like our mirror image,
to those we perhaps had feared
and turned to bogeyman shadows.
We seemed to be almost arriving
at something halfway holy and adult.
Was it all seeming? All luxury?

We are rushing backward to a war
against our best selves.We’re suckling
hatred, eating hatred for breakfast
and lunch, snacking on hatred, fattening
on it, bloated with it. We’ll dance on
corpses of good ideas. We’ll burn
dissenters like witches. Is this the end
of good my country might’ve done?

Marge Piercy is the author of many books of poetry, most recently Made in Detroit: Poems.
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