I never loved you,
founded by Puritans who named themselves kings
of heaven and planted the myth
that everyone could be rich if only he worked hard
enough. In college my creepy history professor read
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to a class full
of young Midwesterners and I knew even then
it was the women, the children, the poor
who dangled over the flames. America
I never dreamt of you but of your parts:
my flatland home, the mountains my mother loved,
beach where I could look out and see only not-you.
Every country’s history is written in blood
but yours is boastful and too
close to me, the stink always on my skin.
I thought by now my white femaleness wouldn’t
matter, I was too idealistic I know, I actually thought
people wanted to be fair to one another.
America your hands
are too hard, you have metal blades
for teeth. Maybe you were an idea once
but now you are machine. Remember
humans live here, in our soft bodies.
America you are scaring me.
Katherine Riegel is the author of three books of poetry: Letters to Colin Firth, What the Mouth Was Made For, and Castaway. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Brevity, The Offing, Orion, Tin House, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and poetry editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection.