America

Virginia Griem

Last night you phoned, not been well, but
getting better, and somehow I knew that I have
to come to America. Not now with the borders
closed, and both of us in lockdown, but soon,
before we get older and more difficult, and
lose any lines of conversation we might still
have. To be honest I don’t like the idea of it.
I don’t want to arrive at JFK, stand in a queue
marked Aliens and be quizzed on why I’m there
and when am I leaving, watch the poor woman
from Ecuador, with a baby on her back and the
wrong paperwork, be hustled away crying.

But I won’t tell you this, I’ll just pack my bag
get on a plane and come, and when the Customs
guy with the gun asks me to open up I’ll lay out
my America on the table: in my bag will be
a bald eagle’s egg, a totem pole, a pinto pony,
a silver dollar, a crate of tea, a gospel song in
an ironwood box made in Africa. He will tell me
America already has all these things, doesn’t
need reminding. I’ll take a cab to New Jersey
through ugly townships, to see you one last
time, and you’ll talk about America. I won’t
say a word, but will love you for it though
I fear a foot on my neck should I speak out.

Afterwards I’ll pack away all my America,
bring it home.