art gallery
contributors subscribe links trumpet fiction back issues exit

To Whom It May Concern
Robert Ahrens


"To Whom It May Concern
My Name is America
I’m from New York City,
and I’m mad."

- Full page advertisement in The Ithaca Journal, ca. September 12th, 2001

To whom it may concernmy name is America.
My ancestors were burned out of their homes –thick pall of smoke on the lowlands of Scotland.
Starving, they were herded onto cramped boats off Cape Wrath.Months of scurvy and nausea endured,
decamped ultimately on the cold shores of Canada, drifting iteratively south on Indian trails and new roads,
taking to the high woods of the Appalachians.

My name is America.
I alone escaped from Poland
while my mother and my brothers were boiled down to soap
in soot-furnaced machines behind don’t-tell masks of barbwire nationalism.
Years later, my son came home from Iraq,
his body perpetually gripped with a terrible shaking
as saccharines, turned to poison by desert heat, ate out his nerves.

My name is America.
My ancestors crossed the land bridge from Asia
when Europe’s Eden still slept beneath stone winter.
I walked across planes littered with buffalo carcasses,
staring in mute wonder at the charnel herd.

And my name is America.
I came back from the Moon. Alive.
I crossed 30,000 miles of cold space,
huddled behind eggshell walls of tin
while radiation sleeted off them like a raincoat.

I was a spy for CoIntelPro.
      I turned the key in the lock of the Watergate hotel.
            I sang "White Christmas" at the base on Tinian Island
                  while Enola Gay taxied towards destiny.

To whom it may concern
my name is America.
I’m from Bangladesh.
I’m from Lithuania.
I am from Marrakech, Istanbul, Latvia,
Ecuador, Iceland, Wales, Portugal and Romania.
I saw the tears in the eyes
of the widowed mothers of Nicaragua.
I lit the fires of the torches
as mobs danced in Capetown.
I felt the shock as ten pounds of hammer
bit deep in the asphalt ice of the Berlin Wall.
Every citizen of the free world is a donut.

American. I was on a list of 205 men
known to be Communists at work within Hollywood.
I believed a ring of hippies holding hands
could levitate the Pentagon.
I took the brown acid.
I drank from the colored waterfountains.
I squeezed forth the burst of rubber bullets.
I freed the slaves,
but only in the States with which we were at war.
I shot Andy Warhol.
I gave Marilyn the tranquilizers
and Woody Guthrie syphilis.
I locked Zelda out in the snow
on a sub-zero night in Paris.
I have given you all and now I’m nothing.

I am nothing but mad.

Mad at a culture that stifles thought and crushes diversity,
that buries the truth behind the bright lies
of fake wrestling, fake politics, fake ‘news’ about celebrities.
Mad at a world where the few rule the many,
where the law of the gun and the cluster bomb enforces that rule.
A world where the weak, the uneducated, the poor and the alien
are cast out of the castle to starve in the storm.
Mad at a system which tells me I’m too stupid to understand
the complex intricacies of international conspiracies
conducted in my name.
Mad at the people who assume my flag is a weapon,
the people who assume they are always a hero
so long as they drape themselves in my colors

To whom it may concern:I am mad at you.
You failed democracy.
You made it a mockery,
believed every lie that tripped off the demagogues’ lips.
You chased after life, liberty and the pursuit of trivia
while they trained the terrorists
who killed six thousand in Manhattan,
who killed sixty thousand in Nicaragua.
You were humming the second verse of the Star-Spangled Banner
while they invented the weapons
which killed two hundred thousand in Iraq,
which killed two million in Vietnam.
And who am I that weeps so?

I am an American.
I come from a boring little town in upstate New York.
      And I come from Scotland.
            And I come from Holland and Austro-Hungary.
                 And I come from Bangladesh and the foothills of north India.

I come from the past and I am moving towards the future.
I will not look back.
You have been looking back too long,
      gazing at iniquities we should have put behind us.
            You already turned into a pillar of salt.
And you cannot impede my progress any longer.
For I
      am America.

I watched the light fade in Ken Kesey’s eyes.
I shaved the heads of Sacco and Vanzetti.

And I,
      in my generation,
            am by destiny rather than choice
                  the watchman on the walls of world freedom.

For me, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

So wake,
                    for the watchman cries.


email us with your comments.