It’s true I never loved my country
in the abstract sense: red, white, or blue.
I have only this black waving flag,
Stars, bold stripes,
remind me of a million dead young men
in far-off ditches,
remind me of the innocents who fell,
wild-eyed, blazing: each of them
a universe unmade.
I say that I have never loved my country,
but I’d surely die
for several good friends, my wife and sons.
I’d sacrifice a number of pink toes
and fingers, too (my own)
for Emerson, for Whitman and Thoreau.
I’d give an eye for one deep lake,
for several good streams,
at least one waterfall,
a lovely stand of Norway pines
just east of here, not far away.
From New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini (Beacon Press, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.
Jay Parini has published multiple collections of poetry, as well as novels, biographies and academic texts. He has received honorary degrees from Lafayette College and the University of Scranton and fellowships from Christ Church at Oxford University, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the School of Advanced Study (Institute of English Studies) at the University of London.
Date Published: 2016-06-30
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/unpatriotic-gore