“America” by Moira Linehan

To the America I know from songs—
the America of plains amassed with corn
and wheat. Of amazing purple mountains
majestic, a mirror of each passing cloud.
The America of songs from my childhood

at assemblies, parades, and still at ballparks,
a childhood on Delsole Road, fed from the same source
as were those songs. Seven houses amidst
a former apple orchard—our house at the end
and then, a field, the woods, Mill River

running through. No end of trees to climb. For Hide
and Seek
, granite outcrops to crouch behind.
Pine needles amassed upon the forest floor.
We swept them into squares to form the rooms
of the houses of our dreams. Born to dream—

this America of immigrants, the masses
amidst her cities, amalgam of the poor,
the tired and the desperate, but ah, yes, also
all us children. America, mon amour,
a muse for Whitman and every explorer

who headed west, every pioneer who followed.
Summer evenings when our dad got home, he pitched,
we learned to hit, we tried to catch ground balls,
fly balls, all those amazing fireflies. Monarch
butterflies. Were there snakes? Of course. We looked for them

under rocks. We ran with them. Andy, the big kid
in the neighborhood, taught us to stone them.
Amen. America on parchment scrolls,
in presidents’ speeches, in the seas of flags
graveyard after graveyard. America.

Rainy days, my friend, my first friend Marilyn
and I amused ourselves by cutting clothes
for paper dolls from our mothers’ catalogs.
Every childhood: a muse for better or for worse
and mine, Amen, was blest. And so by chance.

Like those three turtles that lumbered into our yard
the day our dad had white paint on a brush.
He wrote my name, my brothers’—Moira, Mark and Joe—
upon their lacquered backs. I never saw them
again, though I knew they were out there, crawling,

surely crawling back to Mill River: Moira, Mark and Joe,
buried now in the land of that childhood’s songs.
America, my country. Mirabile
dictu.
A match that still enflames, a mecca
a masterpiece, a mouthpiece, a must-read.

  Published in Crab Orchard Review, Winter/Spring 2012

Moira Linehan

Moira Linehan

Moira Linehan’s debut collection, IF NO MOON, won the 2006 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition and was published in 2007 by Southern Illinois University Press. In 2008 it was named an Honor Book in Poetry in the 8th annual Massachusetts Book Awards. In 2010 her poem, “Last Wishes,” received the Foley Poetry Award from America magazine.

After careers as a high school English teacher and an administrator in high tech and academic settings, Linehan now writes full-time and occasionally leads poetry writing workshops. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Alaska Quarterly Review, Crab Orchard Review, Image, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly.  She has had numerous residencies, including recent ones at the Cill Rialaig Project in Co. Kerry, Ireland; Fundación Valparaíso in Mojácar, Spain; the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Co. Monaghan, Ireland; the Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor, WA; and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Linehan also holds a MFA in Writing from Vermont College.  She lives in Winchester, MA.