I have never heard America described as quiet.
Even street lights seem to pulse to some interminable heartbeat
beneath buildings endeavoring for the clouds.
Our purposeful words often laced in ample volume.
In such social engagements
all varieties of people run together—
words flowing, ideas pooling—
eager to share and just as soon to hear.
But have ideas—opportunities—collaborations
extending beyond the bounds of our borders
with reverberations felt through every city, capital, and country
ever began with silence and seclusion?
My stepfather created opportunity
from the destitute nothing he was dealt,
consoled only by the American dream
that came as whispers under snow-dappled stars.
And from these muffled mumblings
he bettered his situation.
He is one of America’s thousands,
evidence of excellence obtained by
those in pursuit of changing their fortune.
And as snow-ridden summits yield to streams
and torrid deserts to the placid waltz of grassy plains,
each of us—
guided by the compass of our will—
is free to climb, swim, or walk
to wherever we may choose.
All countries of ample years have a shadow beneath their flag
cast by historical inequities amended too late.
But how it still catches the propitious wind!
Always endeavoring to fly higher and baste the somber shade beneath.
As it flutters, we stand reverently
for those who can no longer
and for those who cannot yet.
The horizon an interminable stretch of past and future
we gaze upon it, in remembrance of what was,
yet trekking forward toward what can be.
We are a coalescence of voices,
each with unparalleled inflection,
yet our conglomeration of somber and elated tones
still manages to reach harmony.
The diversity of our country
—of opinions and cultures and beliefs—
as extraordinary as the vast, varying landscapes.
Some tall, imposing, confident as the Rockies;
the great height of their achievements
not formidable but inspiring.
Still others humble and hushed as the plains;
yet their voice embodied in the breeze touches all.
From mountains to marshes to mesas,
we are united in the embrace of the same two seas.
Invaluable are contrasting beliefs
bridged by curiosity and a common desire for betterment.
A miscellany not of problems but possible solutions are we.
Speak up, I implore you,
for in your voice we might find the answer.
The American dream—
one smile, one sunrise,
one decision to pursue an insatiable passion
for words, for equality, for science
—away from the American reality.
When hardships splatter like ebony ink across the skyline,
extinguishing the hues still smoldering from the former day,
pinpricks of hope still remain.
And in these celestial bodies we find solace,
arranging the stars against the somber background into
symbols and pictures of progress.
And beneath them we endure in pursuit of dawn.
Copyright © Mina King. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.