It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels

Our national anthem is a dollars and senseless carnage,
a race around the track of a work week with pit stops amid the roar
of others who are getting ahead while we refuel and relieve.

A desperate dream that ends where it began, a history of
ignorant recklessness set out for harm. 

“What are you rebelling against?” asks the voice of someone, like Mildred
in the Wild Ones. And Marlon Brando’s Johnny answers, “Whadda ya got?” 
What am I saying? We’re the bartered and sold in America, a noisy majority
who won’t fall from history. The world is on a respirator, and you’re lighting the night 

of testosterone-pumped sky-god phalluses with a billion, billion lumens. To imagine
the land of the free as happily-ever-after is to get it all wrong. America, you’re that man, 
seductive, soft-spoken on a first date. By the second, you’re wanting commitment. 
By the third you’re giving her a black eye and a trip to the ER, saying, you’ll never do it again.

America, it’s all about Ecce Femina, Ecce Homo. Homophobia. Homo erectus. Homonyms: 
steel and steal. Freedom trademarked to cloud the eyes of your victims with the promise
of glitz and glitter, a big-bash wedding, a honeymoon, forever. The true-blue of your jeans
unzip, your genes invade our bodies black, white, brown. You insist we keep the results 

you won’t pay paternity for. You’re the man with the nasty temper who wants it all and
someone else to do the dirty work, “with a perfect reason for every awful thing he does.”

 

 

 

About the Author: Kathleen S. Burgess is a retired pink-, white-, and blue-collar worker. Her chapbook Shaping What Was Left and the anthology she edited Reeds and Rushes—Pitch, Buzz, and Hum, are Pudding House publications. A new chapbook Gardening with Wallace Stevens is part of a series of protest poetry for the first hundred days of the new presidential administration available on Lulu. She’s been published in North American Review, Main Street Rag, Sou’wester, Atticus Review, JMWW, Evening Street Review, others. Read more at kathleensburgess.com.

In the Land of Green Fire

At last, in Chiquinquirá, we find a shop
where guitars hang in waiting for animation.
The instruments are not costly. We play—

Ted’s new guitar, my flute—on radio
for a producer who interviews us afterward
about Catholicism. I don’t convince him

with Cleveland as an answer to ¿Which
is your country’s most Catholic city?…¿Not Boston?! 
Now the hotelier questions our religion— 

says she doesn’t believe we’re really Catholics. 
I don’t admit to anything. Nor does Ted, in this city,
the holiest in Colombia. Among the basilica's pilgrims

we view a 1500’s painting they say a humble woman's
prayer restored, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá, 
framed in gold inlaid with emeralds, rubies, sapphires.  

Outside, we meet two workers who dig emeralds
from the nearby mountain mines. Prized among the rarest
in the world, these jewels flash with a pure green fire. 

Men work 16-hour shifts to pay with their bodies
what it costs to live here, and retire. After every shift
armed guards examine shoes, clothing, body cavities.

Paramilitary squads patrol the town. The miners
say we shouldn’t be found talking together. 
It could be difficult for all of us. They melt away. 

On cue, three men in uniforms cross the street,
accost us. They shot four smugglers Sunday. ¿Do you
gringos plan to take possession of hot emeralds

to assist the FARC? They question us so long
all the restaurants have closed when they let us go.
Chiquinquirá is a pretty place. Its guitars

sing with angelic voices. Its white string
cheese is savory with fresh-baked bread. We board
a bus to Bogotá next morning, just the same.

 

 

 

About the Author: Kathleen S. Burgess, poet, senior editor at Pudding Magazine: the Journal of Applied Poetry, retired public music teacher, videographer, hitchhiker and traveler through North, Central, and South America, has poetry in, or forthcoming from, North American Review, Sou’wester, The Examined Life, Evening Street Review, Malpaís Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Mudfish, Atticus Review, other journals and anthologies. She authored the chapbook Shaping What Was Left and edited the anthology Reeds and Rushes—Pitch, Buzz, and Hum. Two new collections Hitchhiking Through Ruins and The Wonder Cupboard are forthcoming. You're invited to her website www.kathleensburgess.com.