American Poem

by Alex Lemon

Each year, thousands of people excuse
Themselves from the dinner table, wander
Out of streetlight glow & never
Return from darkness. Friday nights,
Uncles across the country dive into
Dumpsters, digging for anything
Better. Whole families gather
Together for the first time & sit
In silence while flies flit from potato
Salad to coleslaw. This country was
Founded on toothy smiles, hand-
Shakes & a mannequin voice
That whispers put all your money in
The sack motherfucker. A singular
Flex of the heart now sits between
Throat & threat, one, barely audible
Tick of a time bomb. Yesterday’s tests
Necessitate the ordering of more
Tests while the lump grows—
Bulging from the throat
Like an overripe cantaloupe. For
The rest: it’s time to perform
Your own surgery. Avoid the
The beauty of the mosquito-
Thick dusk. Immediately call,
Report the suspicious person
Howling into the blinding
Sweep of the day’s first light
No matter the joyous O
Of their mouth. Deadbolt
The door. Lock up the kids.
Anymore, it’s impossible to
Tell if you are still breathing.

Alex Lemon is the author of four poetry collections: Mosquito, Hallelujah Blackout, Fancy Beasts, and The Wish Book as well as Happy: A Memoir. A memoir and a fifth book of poetry are forthcoming from Milkweed Editions. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, teaches at TCU and in Ashland University’s Low-Residency MFA program.


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