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A Prayer for America

in Charlottesville/U.S. by

Robert E. Lee looks out across an assembling crowd
The bronze horse tucks his head
As if forever bracing to stop
Torches, Confederate flags and guns
Bring back memories of our violent past

“It’s still a free country,” Welty wrote
In the voice of the man who killed Medger Evers
And Emmett Till, a Chicago child visiting Money, Mississippi
Beaten and dumped in the Tallahatchie
Later his murderer reflected,
“I don’t know why he won’t stay dead”
“Does America deserve to survive?” Faulkner asked
Knowing from his life in Mississippi
How ghosts live on

The eclipse marks the time, when sun and moon align
Like it’s all planned, how the universe collides
Creating one dark moment

Someone sprayed graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial
“Fuck law,” it read
Within a day, it was buffed and wiped away
But it reminds me of the line in the Declaration
Not the one everybody quotes but the first one
“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary
For one people to dissolve the political bands
Which have connected them with another”

The car crashes through the crowd
Plowing them down
Heads hit pavement, and another is lost
Flowers have accumulated in the street for her:
Heather Heyer

Her mother says she was a fighter for justice
Some days, she hung her head at her desk and cried
Watching another family go bankrupt
Haven’t enough lives been lost
To this lost cause
Of one people claiming superiority over another

Another statue stands at port
Her torch lit, not with hate but hope
Welcoming those who have come to our shores:
Puritans, Quakers, Shakers, British
Africans, Spaniards, French
Scottish, Irish, Germans, Chinese, Jews,
Cubans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Latinos
To join the natives, already here

A woman wearing a beige hijab lays a bouquet on 4th Street
and mutters a prayer
A prayer for America

 


Read More:
Where is the voice coming from? [The New Yorker]
Remembering Emmett Till: A boy who changed America [Jackson Free Press]
Will America earn the right to survive? [The Atlantic]

Angel Sands Gunn comes from Memphis but lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband and two daughters. Delving into the topics of motherhood, identity, family and women’s roles, her writing has won awards from Glimmer Train and from Berea College. Her work can be found in Appalachian Heritage, Full Grown People, Literary Mama, The Voices Project, Quail Bell Magazine and Edible Blue Ridge Magazine. She attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference, New York State Writers Institue and The Appalachian Writers Workshop. She has studied writing with Amy Greene, Fiona Maazel, Stacey D’Erasmo, Paul Harding and Adam Braver. She has degrees from Northwestern University and NYU. 

 

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