Sam Hamill

1943

Homeland Security after Borges

No one is the homeland. The myths of history
cannot clothe the Emperor's nakedness,
no speech empower a vote not counted,
nor honor the living who are impoverished
by our anthems for the dead. No one
is the homeland. Not the heroes of our
old genocides, the Indian Wars, nor those
who sailed west with cargoes of human flesh
in chains, nor those in chains who came
against their will to work and breed and die
in the service of their masters, masters
whose sons would be masters of us all today.

There are no heroes except the ones
who rise to greet the dawn with empty hands
and heavy hearts in a brutal time. No oath
or pledge reveals what's in the heart or mind.
No one is the homeland. Or everyone.
For who lives without a country of the heart?
And yet we cry, "We!" We cry, "Them!"
I pledge allegiance to the kind.
Among the exiled, I make my stand.
No true democracy can be won
at the point of a loaded gun, nor honor found
in anthems or cheap paradigms
based on the social lie. No one is the homeland.

It can't be found in the grandiloquence
of pompous village idiots who run for office
because they want the power. Nor in the brilliance
of the medals on a uniform worn by a man
whose thinking is uniform and obedient
as he swears his pledge of allegiance.
The homeland is a state of grace, of peace,
a whole new world that patiently awaits.
The homeland is a state of mind, a light
flooding the garden, a transcendent moment
of compassionate awareness, one extraordinary line
in some old poem that reveals or exemplifies
a possibility… in time… in time…
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