I began working on a poem a few days ago and was not making much progress. In reaction to the usual enthusiasm attendant the Fourth of July, I was thinking about events in our history that have not exactly covered our nation with glory. I was thinking about slavery, the Salem witch trials, Wounded Knee, the internment of ethnic Japanese, UpStairs Lounge, and, most recently, Highland Park. My list was much longer.
I began thinking about liberty and the tenuousness it seems to have acquired in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs. The resulting poem—some may not find it very poetic—captures the pessimism that motivated my writing project, though the final output is not at all what I set out to produce. I was thinking about abortion rights, but there are many reasons to fear for other freedoms as well. Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs intensifies that fear.
I don’t know that this poem is in its final form, but I need to let it go for now. My friend Lisa Keppeler helped me edit this poem, and I am grateful for her assistance.
Course of American Rights, 2022
by Lionel Deimel