spiritual language poetry & writings

notes of a native son



As I lay dying, America
–O tender is the night–
I can hear the sound & the fury
from my sanctuary
in another country,
I can see my lives and how
I lost them this side of
paradise (no victim, I),
I can see my homecoming,
my family reunion, America,
just above my head,
I can see the beckonings
of the face of an angel,
I can glean from the
ways of the hour other
voices, other rooms, a further
range in the clearing, where
a witness tree stands,
an empty mirror, an open head.
And I can see the other side
beyond the gates of wrath, America,
where men and angels
at the end of the world
make final payments in the
company of women,
their eyes watching God.
I can see across the river
and into the trees, America,
how the winner takes nothing
–ah sin–how the shadow man
with a one-way ticket leaves
dust tracks on a road
(not without laughter),
notes of a son and a brother
at the edge of the body,
and how misery–a bag of bones
on the road in different seasons –
is now the long walk day by day
of the boy I left behind me,
past the people of the abyss
–the armies of the night–
now the running man
running against the machine,
running in the family
on existential errands,
spreading the gospel
according to the son,
of a new life on the
golden pond,
of the progress of love
in the skin of a lion,
of a tenant in the house
of dawn.
Oh America I can see
coming through slaughter,
riot, rage, dred, half-lives,
my wicked wicked ways,
wounds in the rain, aloneness,
a tangled web, the winter
of our discontent,
something to declare,
something I’ve been meaning to tell you:
Oh America, beloved America,
who do you think you are?
Letting go, crossing the water
–the awful rowing toward God,
to a God unknown–
making it new, America,
a twice-told tale,
like the old man and the sea
surfacing in the time
of the butterflies, home
sweet home burning bright
– raise high the roofbeams! –
Joshua then and now
in dubious battle,
a dog’s mission –
to honor the difficult,
the greater inclination,
the awakening,
the touchstone,
the long dream the world over,
here and beyond,
of the children past
the age of innocence, and
certain people possessing
the secret of joy–
of representative men,
the outsider,
invisible man,
a tramp abroad,
my life and hard times,
black love, black love
–white man, listen!–
no executioner’s song,
the fruit of the tree,
one of ours.


Copyright (c) 2012 Alan Botsford