The Potomac - Joanne Lowery
May 2008 - THE POTOMAC

The Former United States
   Joanne Lowery

It began with Katrina nibbling at the swamps
and ersatz land of Louisiana,
the change in Mississippi’s coastline.
Slowly warm baths drowned Florida,
ditto Cape Cod and Long Island.
The rock under Manhattan crumbled.
As predicted, the Big One broke California
apart. Oklahoma and Texas were desiccated
and blew away, the Great Lakes states
poisoned themselves, Alabama had tornadoes
every other day, a rogue glacier
took out Maine and part of Vermont.
Disasters unimagined pushed the coasts
inland, and the Rockies heaved.
Soon all the survivors of the Red States
and the Blue States huddled in Iowa
seeking a share of its rich black soil.
They took their guns and rifles with them.


The week of the Virginia Tech tragedy
I was reading a book about Viet Nam, My Lai.
On a windy morning shots rang out
above the rice paddies, and water buffalo
were shot for no reason. Students
jumped from windows and learned to be heroic.
In Blacksburg no babies were killed
nor did men in uniforms force fellatio
at gunpoint, just doing their job.
Cho was crazy but took away his own face.
Calley and Medina live quietly
somewhere else and watch the news on television.
They have gray hair and opinions.
The old woman begged, the German teacher fell,
the human race ran and ran.

America Indivisible

Finally the blue states blend with the red
until the whole country is as purple
as Whitman’s grieving lilacs.
Peace, harmony, and prosperity reign
for a thousand years.
Then someone begins to doubt
the succession of seventh-century caliphs.
Others are convinced, and the debate grows.
Some of us become Shiites
while others stay Sunni and everyone
can tell the difference at a glance.
In the next election, Hutus beat Tutsis.
The rest is history.

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