There are no kings in America
we are not that kind of country.
We are sanctuary for the hungry,
the homeless, the huddled,
held together by an idea
our immigrant fathers believed in.
Rendered, it meant independence.
Pursued, it kindled war, ordinance,
a fighting chance. Forty thousand
musket balls, by themselves, did not
shape the boundaries on which we
map our days. To draw our borders,
we needed more than firecakes.
More than a pound of meat
with bone and gristle,
or salt fish and a gill of peas.
We needed the faith and grit of people
who were not yet Americans.
To be an American is to
recognize the sacrifice
of the widow and the orphan;
it is to understand the weft of tent
cities expecting caravans,
and the heft of a child in a camp
not meant for children, or sitting
before a judge awaiting judgement.
What do we say to the native
whose lands we now inhabit?
What do we say to our immigrant
fathers who held certain truths
to be self-evident?
Do we now still pledge to each
other our lives, our fortunes,
our sacred honor.
There are no kings in America.
Only gilded men we can topple
again and again.
Copyright © Aileen Cassinetto. This poem originally appeared in Vox Populi (July 4, 2020). Used with permission of the author.