Poem for July 4, 1994
For President Václav Havel
It is essential that Summer be grafted to
bones marrow earth clouds blood the
eyes of our ancestors.
It is essential to smell the beginning
words where Washington, Madison, Hamilton,
Adams, Jefferson assembled amid cries of:
"The people lack of information"
"We grow more and more skeptical"
"This Constitution is a triple-headed monster"
"Blacks are property"
It is essential to remember how cold the sun
how warm the snow snapping
around the ragged feet of soldiers and slaves.
It is essential to string the sky
with the saliva of Slavs and
Germans and Anglos and French
and Italians and Scandinavians,
and Spaniards and Mexicans and Poles
and Africans and Native Americans.
It is essential that we always repeat:
we the people,
we the people,
we the people.
"Let us go into the fields" one
brother told the other brother. And
the sound of exact death
raising tombs across the centuries.
Across the oceans. Across the land.
It is essential that we finally understand:
this is the time for the creative
the human being who decides
to talk upright in a human
fashion in order to save this
earth from extinction.
This is the time for the creative
Man. Woman. Who must decide
that She. He. Can live in peace.
Racial and sexual justice on
This is the time for you and me.
African American. Whites. Latinos.
Gays. Asians. Jews. Native
Americans. Lesbians. Muslims.
All of us must finally bury
the elitism of race superiority
the elitism of sexual superiority
the elitism of economic superiority
the elitism of religious superiority.
So we welcome you on the celebration
of 218 years Philadelphia. America.
So we salute you and say:
Come, come, come, move out into this world
nourish your lives with a
spirituality that allows us to respect
each other's birth.
come, come, come, nourish the world where
every 3 days 120,000 children die
of starvation or the effects of starvation;
come, come, come, nourish the world
where we will no longer hear the
screams and cries of womens, girls,
and children in Bosnia, El Salvador,
Ma-ma. Dada. Mamacita. Baba.
Mama. Papa. Momma. Poppi.
The soldiers are marching in the streets
near the hospitals but the nurses say
we are safe and the soldiers are
laughing marching firing calling
out to us i don't want to die i
am only 9 yrs old, i am only 10 yrs old
i am only 11 yrs old and i cannot
get out of the bed because they have cut
off one of my legs and i hear the soldiers
coming toward our rooms and i hear
the screams and the children are
running out of the room i can't get out
of the bed i don't want to die Don't
let me die Rwanda. America. United
Nations. Don't let me die..............
And if we nourish ourselves, our communities
our countries and say
no more hiroshima
no more auschwitz
no more wounded knee
no more middle passage
no more slavery
no more Bosnia
no more Rwanda
No more intoxicating ideas of
as we walk toward abundance
we will never forget
For we the people will always be arriving
a ceremony of thunder
waking up the earth
opening our eyes to human
And it'll get better
it'll get better
if we the people work, organize, resist,
come together for peace, racial, social
and sexual justice
it'll get better
it'll get better.
From Shake Loose My Skin. Copyright © 1999 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.
Sonia Sanchez received the 2018 Wallace Stevens Award, given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.
Date Published: 2018-08-28
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/poem-july-4-1994