the museum of americana

a literary review

The Eagle, Not the United States and Hand Over Heart — Poetry by Monica Rico

The Eagle, Not the United States

Brown wings, like the two hands of my father

holding the tree from falling into Lake Michigan.

The white head of the eagle sees me before I stomp

into the snow, careful for the ice a neighbor

said is there, but can’t be seen. The reaction

of my foot is the release of the eagle, whose wings

search the wind, spread and part like arteries.

A wave stretches and retreats

across the shore and the eagle notices

the peculiar ripple of a fish. Gone, a rock

worn into the shape of an egg, a fist, heavy

as I imagine the weight of an eagle on my gauntlet.

This isn’t the first time, I’ve been left alone, unidentifiable

under a winter coat and hat. I know I am supposed to

lift my hand to everyone and smile, but I stop

when I see an American flag. I walk, pray

for invisibility or like the eagle I curl my feathers

along the bark, stuffing my head underneath

the arc of my wing until this disruption passes.

I go back to water, to the imminent need

for beauty. I am part of this landscape.

 

Hand Over Heart

          I didn’t laugh when a woman       said      all

Mexicans carry          knives.           I felt for

                                  mine            in my pocket,              it’s justice

                    defined by        how often I use it          and

never in a fight,            but the liberty 

                   to open or fix anything with

                            one swipe—a routine        like         my father            indivisible

           from his car, driving              to work every day,                  like a god

who’s power is to assemble                            an entire vehicle           in under

              or exactly sixty seconds                      with a nation

                            of machines mastered        like the control of one

                  tool        stamping     metal and stands 

                                            the frame upright— it

                                                                   self a shell of edges                which

                                spark and ride           a belt for

                                                  my body,             a republic 

                assembled by nails                  and hooks, the 

                                       abdomen of dragonflies      to

                       beat my heart, and

                       with this              I can hear America

                                  as a song                I can’t turn off of 

the Saginaw river      left         in states 

          so toxic           a legacy            of factories united

                  parasitically through the 

                          middle of 

                                       my city                              like a flag

                             folds     before it falls.                    The 

East and West       still separated         by a bridge          that doesn’t rotate to 

                           keep who away from whom                as an allegiance

                           the walleye, the peony    as    my pledge

                                         to not begin and end with I.

 

~~~

 

Monica RicoMonica Rico is a Mexican American CantoMundo Fellow, Macondista, and Hopwood Graduate Poetry Award winner who grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan’s HZWP and works for the Bear River Writers’ Conference. Her manuscript PINION is the winner of the 2021 Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry selected by Kaveh Akbar.

 

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