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Assume America, a poem by Carl Boon

Assume America


Assume the Vicksburg Road,

a strand of wild irises 

nestled at your shoulder, a boy

beside you with a new and gleaming 

watch and pressed clothes.


Assume you’ve never seen 

this country before and, unconcerned

with love, seek solace 

in its diners and roadsides.

That’s music from a Black man

walled inside a shack.


That’s strawberry pie, a curtain

made of bedsheets; that’s a flag.

Assume it’s yours, the flag,

and what it means when night

collides with it. Watch your feet.


The water moccasins, they say,

sometimes mistake the land 

for palaces and run amok.

Myths prevail. The Yazoo City madam

walks her poodles after dark 

and never flinches. 


Her girls recede into the walls,

each her mother’s portrait, each 

to be forgotten…like mandolin sound

or the smell of breakfast. 

You might see them at dawn


rinsing out their panties,

sucking raisins, watching the sky

for signs of their mothers. 

You might see their brothers

if you make it to Clinton 

where things are happening—


revenge and retribution, a battle

in the pool hall of brothers, rivals,

and questions: what happened?

where's the meat I ordered?

why is your sister looking at me?


Ohio native Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His writing has appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.