America’s Last Letter

The suicide note of our nation,

America’s last letter

was started long before

America was America

was started before

the continent was even discovered

and occupied

and colonized

it began as a journal entry of an Italian guy

line one was Christopher Columbus

describing the Arawaks

“They would make fine servants….

With fifty men we could subjugate them all

and make them do whatever we want.”

Lines were penned by Vespucci

around the turn of the century

and Cortes grabbed the quill,

and then Pizarro and Grenville,

and a line of the letter was written on the water

aboard a Dutch ship in 1619

as it carried human cargo to Jamestown

but that line was inspired more than a hundred years prior

as the first black slaves were brought into Hispaniola in 1503

turning human beings into a commodity

and the next line, was about a city

shining on a hill, penned by John Winthrop

to him, it was God’s will

as he delivered the sermon aboard the Arbella in 1630

and most of the body of the letter

consists of page after page of slave code

and treaties, broken

with hypocritical lines

about liberty and freedom

written by Jefferson

and lines penned by Samuel Adams

about Daniel Shays and his men

and then the pen was passed to Andrew Jackson

and he wrote his name onto the twenty dollar bill

by killing countless thousands of American Indians

and we salute him, still

and Emerson took the quill and wrote a line

when he asked his friend Thoreau

why he was confined behind bars

for refusing to pay the Massachusetts poll tax

in dissent against the Mexican war

and lines were written

by factory owners

hellbent on exploiting the poor

and still more and more lines

were penned by greedy men

lured to fight their way across the continent

tempted by gold and cheap land

and many lines were written in blood and sweat

and Lincoln grabbed the pen

and set it down for a moment…

 

but the Ku Klux Klan picked it right back up

and hurriedly wrote line after line

helping define the course of the rest of the letter

and, thinking they could do better

Rockefeller and Morgan wrote lines

from their train cars

and coal mines

and oil refineries

and steel plants

and from atop the graves

of striking workers

and another line was written at Wounded Knee

during the massacre in 1890

and another was written in Hawaii in 1893

during the coup d’état of Lili’uokalani,

her majesty the Queen

with the help, of course, of The US Marines

and then McKinley took the pen with him to Cuba

and the Philippines

and wrote with the help of men of commerce

and it was a rehearsal of lines to come

claiming more and more sovereign nations

for those powerful businessmen

and their relations

who were there again in Ludlow, Colorado

as a line was written in the back of the hearse

as it carried the charred remains of eleven children

away from their tent

which was burned to the ground by Rockefeller and his men

with the help, of course, of the government

and the next lines were written

on draft cards during world war one

and Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a line of the letter

in which he analogized yelling fire in a crowded theater

to speaking out against the war

and, by that point on the paper,

there wasn’t room left

for much more

and ink was starting to run out

but the powerful men shook the pen

and they wrote the name Sacco

and they wrote the name Vanzetti

and Edward Bernays wrote an important line

during the Easter parade

as women lit “torches of freedom’

and the American Tobacco Company made

a whole lot of money

there were lines written by bankers

that took farms and homes

and hope

from the masses

and the next line of the last letter,

America’s suicide note

were written as orders from Hoover

to MacArthur and Eisenhower and Patton

as they led their troops who used tear gas

and flamethrowers

against tens of thousands of world war one veterans

and their wives and children

who were homeless and desperate

only asking for the bonus that was promised to them

one of the following lines was written by Roosevelt

with executive order 9066

legalizing the forced relocation and incarceration

of American citizens of Japanese ancestry

in concentration camps

as we entered the second world war

and, at that point

there wasn’t ink left for much more

but the official last line came on August the 6th of 1945

as we obliterated an entire city with an atomic bomb

and another a few days later

and we were proud of what we had done,

though the war had already been won at that point

and the post script includes racist real estate by laws

and a long, long list of coup d’état’s

and unequal enforcement of drug laws

and countless arrests without just cause

and silencing dissent during the red scare

and no, things have never been fair

and as the ink ran out,

Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia

were scratched onto the page by the CIA

and they used blood to write the next few lines

about Malcolm and Martin

and about speed and dope and crack

and the last visible words

are about greed

and our lack of conscience.

 

This last letter,

America’s suicide note

was finished sometime between

the imposition of sanctions on Iraq

with UN Security Council Resolution 661 in 1990

and the illegal invasion in 2003

but we’ll never know the date for sure

because we were too busy getting addicted

to jingoism and war

back at the turn of this last century

 

 

Predator drones and the tapping of our cellphones,

that all came after the letter was finished.

People think that Donald Trump

was the beginning of our national suicide,

or that maybe George W. Bush

started this slide

but America had already taken it’s life

years before they came to power

It was a slow death

that began long before America was America

it started with that Italian man’s journal entry.

 

America has been dead

for nearly twenty years

there is no heart beat left

and we are decaying

but don’t bury us and plant a tree

because we won’t nourish it,

we are rotten to the core

with a national pastime of genocide,

slavery,

and war

and even at our best,

we were still exploiting minorities

and women

and the poor…

in writing this last letter,

America’s suicide note,

quite a few people held the pen

and the one thing they had in common?

they were all rich white men

so, save your tears now my friends

because America never cried

for anyone.

 

 

 

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the book “A People’s History of the United States” by the late, great scholar and activist Howard Zinn. I learned more from Professor Zinn’s books than I did in all of high school & college combined. I wrote this poem on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I started thinking about the bombing as America’s spiritual suicide, and one of the final lines of our nation’s long suicide note.  When I started thinking about the beginning of that note, I couldn’t help but think about where Howard Zinn started his “People’s History of the US”…  that is, with Christopher Colombus.

 

 

 

 

About soitgoes1984

I was born and raised on land stolen from the Pocumtuc. I now live on a small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, on land that was stolen more recently, from the Hawaiians. I am addict, struggling to kick the habit of fossil fuel. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This entry was posted in poem, Poetry, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.