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Elizabeth Powell

Elizabeth Powell is the author of The Republic of Self (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2001), which was awarded the 2001 New Issues Poetry Prize. She teaches at the University of Vermont and lives in Burlington, Vermont.

By This Poet

1

Pledge

Republic, your cool hands
On my schoolgirl shoulders.
Not sure what allegiances meant
Until the vows were held by heart,
By memory, by rote, by benign betrothal.
Republic, you were mine, I knew
Because of Mother's religious pamphlets:
Lindsay for Mayor.
McGovern for President.
How to Register Voters.
I didn't ever want to go to school
On Saturdays. The baby-sitter said
If Nixon won, I'd have to go. Me,
Your most cherished child bride.
I wanted a white communion dress
Like the ones the Catholic girls wore.
Republic, you know I wanted to play
Cards with Mother. Mother smoking
Marlboros, watching Watergate all week.
Citizen Mother all consumed at that confessional.
I liked the name Betsy Ross.
I liked the idea of sewing flags.
I liked the tattered textbook about the colonies.
So tender, so tender. My Republic,
I am pledged by my childish troth
So strangely to you.