The Flag is Burning

The Flag Is Burning

We, friend, are the body of the country
burning in the street,
eyes open against the sky,
the child running,
the mother on her knees
reaching for the soldier aiming,
the village on fire—the shrapnel littered ruins
of the hanging gardens
of Providence and Cheyenne,
snow falling over the blistered arroyo
in an ashen dance,
the stars surrendering white
over Pierre, the rain
penetrating the prairie,
the clothes and walls and pillows
splattered crimson,
the steeples congregating
in a phosphorus sky,
claiming God’s bidding.
We are the tombs of brothers and uncles,
who send our sons and daughters into battle,
in the senate and the woodshed
our ties smoldering like oil slicks,
conviction flourishing like ivy
fueled by our breath,
we are the flag and the heart
from which it was sewn,
we are the dead who gather
burning in the child’s mind
the hunger that congregates
and cries out, never again.

William O’Daly

Excerpted from The New Gods Beltway Editions, 2022