The Fourth of July

imagine one thousand ships sinking into a black ocean
the water twisting and sucked up into the sky

imagine your house is on fire and so is your neighbor’s house
great plagues of locust pushing through the alleys of your veins

imagine you don’t remember your name or what year it is
and imagine for a second that you don’t know who is the leader of your country

my tongue tastes like death and it doesn’t matter what toothpaste i use
i can’t help but spend hours each morning brushing off the black death of my ancestors before me

their names don’t fall off the tip of my tongue i see them easily enough on street signs and churches

imagine being an adult and learning to read for the first time
try and imagine what it’s like to not have been given the gift of reading handed to you

imagine the weight of words when everything on the television tells you it’s over
imagine there is a breath hidden in prayers tucked between the paper births and the ink stamped eulogies

imagine convincing yourself you can read with the sound off
that you can close your eyes and great wings will grow from your chest

it’s been years since most people have been in a bookstore. that’s the truth.

but this poem isn’t a public service announcement.
it’s not a shaking finger.

it’s a dying one.

as the ground swells up and swallows each of us whole and then we’re gone
and we’ll stay in walls forever besides soldiers and rapists, arsonists and nuns

everything i write lately is about death but i’m finding it hard not to write about death.

bring me dead flowers preserved between pages of a book
bring me hope in a little glass jar
bring me a child with eyes bigger than unending war

i fall asleep
incapable of keeping my eyes open and someone says to me
happy fourth of july

and i say oh, is that today.