by Antler

Not standing when Star-Spangled Banner played
by Milwaukee Symphony in outdoor amphitheatre
beside Lake Michigan near downtown Milwaukee
before the Beethoven's Ninth Concert,
Everyone else standing, everyone else singing,
Putting my head in one hand as it plays so heroic,
Thinking of all the Persian Gulf War dead,
Iraqi soldiers buried alive in trenches
or strafed as they retreated,
women and children bombed in Baghdad airraidshelter,
the 2O-year-old from Wauwatosa
killed by "friendly fire" on my birthday,
Thinking of My Lai, Wounded Knee, Dresden, Nagassaki,
Thinking back to Washington Park bandshell
2O years ago Vietnam War era
One summer eve the Star-Spangled Banner
played before Pagliacci
And not standing then, everyone standing,
not singing then, everyone singing,
Remembering the hateful threats and curses whispered
behind me.
now no curses or threats, only singing sadly and sweetly
mothers and fathers whose voices seem
soft-spoken and sorrowful too
as if they think me Vietnam Veteran
remembering his bestfriend killed there
and remember their bestfriend
killed in World War II or Korea,
no tone of defiant patriotism to my ears,
no growl of rage in the melody,
Only a sound of many Melancholy voices trying
to sound cheerful, hopeful, trying
to believe we still are
the great nation we were taught we were
and thought we were
in gradeschool
No tone of hate or scorn--as if they understand
why I will never stand
for the Star-Spangled Banner
or the American Flag again.
America became Ecotopia and Ecotopia's flag is the Wilderness
and Ecotopia's National Anthem is the wind.
America loved itself so much
it became Ecotopia
after all.
Now we play no National Anthem
And need no Symphony or amphitheatre
or downtown or Milwaukee
As we sit and listen to crickets
and watch fireflies as it gets dark
in hot July along the pure fresh-water shores
of Great Lake Michigan.

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