A Flag for All Seasons

I nominate a tri-colored field of light in Ohio.
This January lake, the visiting handful of geese.
One nominee has to be blackness retreating
inch by inch beside that requisite star field.
We know enough about flags not to need one.
It is no surprise a nation enlists cryptograms
to rally those forgetting that danger attends
living and breathing. Yet what astonishes
isn’t that we are alive but how tentative
is the hold we exert on any part of that.
If spirit imbues the embroidered rag-fabric
and represents dawn, this highway by fields,
then tell that truth to the sweatshop worker
stitching together whatever she is handed.
My heart will not give up on this country.
I’ve struggled with the best and worst of it.
Like any Old Testament diviner wrestling
the intransigent angel to procure a blessing.
These days, I still use words like republic
but pledge allegiance to thread-nothing.

Roy Bentley About Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley is the author of Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama Press), Any One Man (Bottom Dog Books), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press), and Starlight Taxi (Lynx House Press). A new book, Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has been selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize and will be publlshed in the spring of 2018 by the University of Arkansas Press. Work from that collection has appeared in Shenandoah, Pleiades, Rattle, Blackbird, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

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