In My America

Underneath the Cottonwood Tree

In My America Autumn Wins

In my America only the seasons
run for office, and they always win
with campaigns as honest
as snowflakes, as sharp as
lightning, clean as a mama loon’s
call, each heart-rendering note
a sincere promise sure to be kept
as colorful as laying beneath
a Cottonwood in October
all complication naked, abandoned,
just a couple twigs tangled
from last night’s windy dance
when the forecasters went home
early – it’s election season
we know who will win.

In my America the truest campaign
is Autumn’s, managed by the giant knots
of a Cottonwood, more steeped in history
than any stack of Bibles, more fertile
than a state battleground, it sits rooted
and reaching at once, yoga posing
and balanced like a warrior, bulging
like a pregnant woman who emits
tales tall enough to unwind the branches
that buttered the sky on this breezy day
reds, golds, and blues shake it off
find a storyteller who embraces
the truth or a trunk full of patriotic song.

In my America when we inaugurate Autumn
again, we choose the candidate without
a megaphone, who tell us everything we need
to know about where we’ve been
where we’ll go, who needs a fancy suit
from Brioni, a choking necktie, or heels
this high? Autumn’s power suit is woven
with listening to canyon walls, their echoes
rush with the creek into tomorrow
repeating stories blended like gauze skirts
layered stone as sheer as yesterday
as nimble as the titmouse, nobody’s fool,
when Autumn sings everyone nods
looks up, smiles, and flies home.


In my America you’d don’t cancel
culture or art or mothers or holidays or
my body, not science or the rule
of law there would be no insurrections
against Summer or Winter, heaven forbid
Spring, definitely no lynch mobs to feast
on women’s choice like trout roe or goose
eggs tossed on the rotunda floor where
everyone slides to the other side, trips
against impeachment trials, against
orange foliage or golden reflections
or beauty.

In my America we hold elections
on the first day of each season
September’s fallen leaves are cast
as ballots, counted by the breeze
recounted by the rain, recounted again
and again at no cost to anyone, again
until the votes are food, fertilizer, dirt
ground into the next season or sunrise
or runoff or turn of the earth. A cycle
absent of maybe or money, and the baby
Cottonwood, a woody twinkle waits deep
in the roots of this old tree, junior contender
plays patience like checkers or chess
she knows she will be a shoe in
for next.

In my America lines are woven into fabric
as fine as this forest floor, lines
that never hinder or chide, never
salaciously divide a home a house
or build a wall high enough to slice
countries, families, women, only lines
drawn by gentle time in the bark
of this old Cottonwood hieroglyphics
not blades not scissors excuses or
denial, connections, crosses like
fingers in prayer, harmonies in a chorus
branches across an aisle of clouds.

In my America everyone is welcomed
to Autumn’s parties, always under this
old Cottonwood, to hide in the hollows
to nibble, nest or rest, the painters swim in
its colors, children hang from muscled limbs
writers gaze through a maze to imagine
metaphor in the cacophony of boughs
the aged find shade to stretch and to praise
the cicadas, the satin moth, the skunk
sneaking in cheeks full of hibernation
fodder, a resounding chorus of toasts to
Autumn to victory to winning again to pledge
allegiance to the river the canyon the cliffs
and the vote always the vote for the perfect
season which is always this one.
And for me Autumn always wins.

This poem was supposed to post well before the first day of Winter, let alone tonight as we wait for an after- holiday, end-of-year, wintry windy rustle of a storm set to land in an hour or so. And, as always, we know who will win. The poem and artwork’s posting got bumped a bit, like a flight, or a covid test, or so many things. A life. A marriage. This poem and the collage above are a result of an October poet’s weekend with my friend Michelle. We wanted to write our America poem as poet laureates and others are asked to do. We spoke of Amanda Gorman, and my collage is actually an article and photo about her published in Ms. magazine. All cut up. I try to use everything at least twice.

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