a journal of modern society & culture

Ghazal: America the Beautiful


Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
In first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
And say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first grade hearts
We felt proud to be citizens of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
Maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
When we learned how to behave in America

What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
Who didn’t understand us or America

Only later understanding the Banner and the Beautiful
Lived on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering this land is two lands
One triumphant bully one still hopeful America

Oh those spacious skies gosh that yearning
To breathe free wow that equality under law in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
Somehow or other still carried away by America


 Alicia Ostriker has published fourteen volumes of poetry, most recently a reprint of her anti-war sequence The Mother/Child Papers, which received the 2009 National Jewish Book Award for poetry, and The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011. Previous books of poetry include No Heaven, The Crack in Everything, The Volcano Sequence, and The Little Space: Poems Selected and New.   Her critical works include Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, Feminist Revision and the Bible, and Dancing at the Devil’s Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics, and the Erotic. Ostriker lives in Princeton, NJ, and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Poetry program of Drew University.