The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


David Prather

I Am Not America


I am not the assassination of Harvey Milk or Martin Luther King, Jr. I am not
the battered body of Matthew Shepard or the bloated form of Emmett Till.

I look over my shoulder and you are there, framed by a shattered window
in an abandoned building. Or you are there driving a rusted hunk of junk

over potholes, the starving mouths of the earth beneath our feet. I hate
to admit that I am under the influence and driving home during the witching

hour, the watching hour, the whatever hour, and I’m trying not to hurt
anybody, but I’m hurting them anyway. And I hate to say that

I will find a way to forget any of this happened, and I will find a way to deny it,
and I will find a way to make this your fault—because you should get out of my way,

you should know how I am and how I get, and you should have seen the reckless light
I threw your way. I am not the loaded gun

                                                                shouting names through the streets,
everyone waiting to hear syllables banging into their chests, their guts, their brains.

I am not the car bomb sifting through the rubble of pointless work-a-day lives,
concrete and rebar, plaster and I-beams. How I hate to admit that I’ve been

sharing sexually-explicit photos all over the internet, creating profiles
to catch a few men for blowjobs, or ass fuck, or something just as mutual.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but some people judge without knowing,
and I am not that, that which is waiting in a dark alley for a victim to pummel and thrash

and leave for dead in the trash. I am not the bigots who killed Maya Young
in Philadelphia, killed for being something they wouldn’t understand, and I am not

Insert-Your-Name-Here, any woman destroyed, torn down brick by board by beam.
Did you hear? I am not what you think I am. Street lights burn out, abandoned

houses succumb to wind and rain, and everyone here sucks the dry teat of poverty.
All I know is how to hate myself, so slip me a mickey, and I’ll show you a goddam good time.




DAVID B. PRATHER received his MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College. His poetry has appeared in many journals, including Colorado Review, Seneca Review, Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review, Poet Lore, ONTHEBUS, Kestrel, A Poetry Congeries, and others. His work was also selected for one of Naomi Shihab Nye's anthologies, "what have you lost?" Currently, David spends his time as an actor and a director at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg in Parkersburg, WV. 



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