Dear America

If you were a tree, I would be a bud,
clenching a feral secret.
If you were a river, I would be a raindrop
sipped into your sweep.
If you were a mountain, I would be a pebble,
a fulcrum, your pivot.
If you were a water cannon, I would be
ice on a braid of gray.
If you were tear gas, I would weep for you.
If you were a wall, I would be a dreamer
yearning to breathe free.
If you were an oil well, I would be a cup of water.
If you were a power grid, I would be sunlight
on a child’s hand.
If you were a century, I would be one breath,
striving to speak my honest syllable.
If you were an empire, I would be the remote village
keeping to the old ways.
If you were a grandmother, I would be the child
who brings you tea.
If you were a billionaire, I would be a simple gift.
If you were a legend, I would be the minor character
the hero sees standing by the road in witness.
If you were a patriotic song, I would be the late verse
remembered only by the elders, hummed at evening.
If you were a prison guard, I would be Mandela’s
slow step, setting the pace in spite of chains.
If you were a long migration, I would be a seed
to sustain two wings.
If you were the great change, I would be one
of the myriad beginnings.
If you were a sorrow, I would be a glimmer.
If you were in recovery, I would leave food on your step.
If you were a grand parade, I would be one
of the unseen singers.
If you were a war, I would bring food to the widows.
If you were a tyranny, I would vote for kindness.
If you were the arc of history, I would bend
my life toward justice.
If you were a declaration of independence,
I would pledge allegiance to interdependence.
If you pursued happiness for a few, I would ask about the many.
If you were a tower, I would be a pilgrim’s tent.
If you were a bold proclamation, I would be a whispered testament.
If you were a phone, I would be a voice to make it matter.
If you were the greed of one generation, I would be the need
of the seventh generation.
If you were the way it was, I would be the way it could be.
If you were a disaster, we could count our blessings.
And if you thought you were my enemy, I would ask
about your children.

— Kim Stafford

Kim Stafford, son of the poet William Stafford, is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.