Volume 31, Number 2

Another Poem about the Fourth of July

I don’t even know what I can say about it anymore, now
that I’ll never again drop a pack of lighted ladyfingers

down a Manhattan apartment building’s airshaft and
crazy-run to the elevator behind my screaming-laughing

college roommate. Lately, even polite fried chicken
and homemade peach pie seem like overkill. Truth is,

I’m usually away from home, the glittering fingers of
a local fireworks display surprising me after hamburgers

on a motel balcony, the antique fire trucks and Girl Scouts
having long since paraded, everything over by the time

I think to look. Abroad, it’s even stranger: two or three
distant sky rockets in Berlin, some fellow Yank shooting up

the sky over the Gulf of St. Lawrence near the national park
on Prince Edward Island. I remember the red streaks of

tail lights on ring roads around Washington DC, the tooth-
pale Lincoln Memorial lights, on all night. Crowds scattering,

people walking back to their cars by themselves: a loneliness
that doesn’t even know how lonely it is. There’s patriotism

in that, but it’s not easy to celebrate because you have to love
something you can’t even name: a forgotten promise, a dense

July night, old houses lining American rivers. The gilded domes
of darkened civic buildings, the silence that divides our dreams.

—Christine Potter