A Community Generated Poem for the 2017 Imagining America Conference

By Imagining America | November 02, 2017

Imagining America

(A Community Generated Poem for the 2017 Imagining America Conference @ UC Davis – constructed by: Nitya Kumaran, Barb Clauer, Hilarie Spangler, Anita Lorentzen, & Andrew Sullivan)


Americo is my father’s first name.

His parents chose “Americo” over “Woodrow” –

Ellis Island Italian immigrants

Somehow through it all

Still believed in the American experiment,

In the possibilities.


America, you ain’t a nightmare

But a dream that exploded into an ogre.

You are surreal,

Encouraged by DACA dreamers.

If only America were compassionate to others

I could bravely believe in their rights

(My blighted education in history).

I saw segregation and bloodied Georgia earth.

I hear and see the voices, bodies of the oppressed.


America is unfinished.

We need a statue of Justice

Shaped, molded, sculpted

Out of the bodies of those who gave all for its wealth.

American is to have all colors, religions, free speech.

Jazz and baseball is not the only “American.”

It does not have a singular way:

It is rap, a Puerto Rican play,

Mickey Mouse, coke bottles, hair,

Playing cards, a vet grandfather, a door to Mexico,

Languages, Zen, smoked walls.

Don’t lose the will to say anything at all inconsequential.


America, creature in the dark, no eyes.

Shine a light in the cave.

Welcome refugees, non-biased educators.

Be not-for-profit, be aware of your oppression.

Circle the wagons and head them to all beings.

See from another view; change size;

Try again and see into the future.

Expose the organic quilting of cultures.

Transform American Dreams into realities:

Land, education, children, intentional interaction

For those who feel invisible to the America who had a stroke.


America makes a soul weep.

Now set a soul free.

Create the highest art

Not oblivious of my privilege, my bustling global family.

I see silk thread, crepe paper, terra cotta,

The social fabric of a healed environment.

Humility, lead America toward the warmth of gentleness.

Listen to the troubled world.

Indigenous people did not use your name.

Animals and plants grew anyway.

America, an abandoned parking lot sleeping through

the sound of broken glass.

In the soil, I find my only hope.

On the brink, a changing face

America is a dizzy boxer,

A forwarded meme, a vegan carnivore.

But its dream can be a nightmare for the hateful,

Haunting them.  It loves the love that is difficult,

Tries to remember to be a citizen of the entire world,

To do something

About it

With a work of art forged from

Ephemera used in direct action.


America is fractal, a chaotic, confusing gem

With inequalities and injustice in its inner workings,

In access to the fruits of its labor –

A drunk bumblebee stuck on a hibiscus plant

Crying tweets.


But if we could imagine

A new American superhero

What would her superpowers be?

A collage of empathy for others, transcendence,

Umoja (“unity” in Swahili),

A West Coast statue of Unity

Accumulated through adding stones

To others’ sculptures by the American River,

Blessing the survivors of her wrath.


America was never mine to begin with –

Different groups not always working together.

When the white guy in class can’t say my name and

Pretends not to see me at all.


To descend through the layers of the earth,

The harmful myth that praises the wealthy for success

And blames the poor for their plight, minorities

Fighting an uphill battle of stereotypes: beans and rice,

Steaming bowls of ramen, lemonade, BBQ sliders.

Insert cracked, dry land with overlay of texts

and voices at hyper-speed, discouraging

exploration of self.

Let’s get our shit together!

When America faces a loss, it does not get lost.

Line up!  Forgive!  Acknowledge faults!

Choose courage!  Connect with the earth!

Leave everything you touch better than it was!

Stop competing and smile, hug, laugh.

Stay a student wherever you go.

Don’t just complain, do something!

We don’t need monuments, we need art, stories, love.


America is too good for its own good;

Posterchild of too much of a good thing.

Too good – always merging, managing, measuring –

That we forgot where the good came from.

How do we make a return on something

We lost the receipt for?

How do we return to the America that,

Like a mosaic on a stained-glass window,

Glows in a time of warmth?


We remember all the people we are and

all the people we’re becoming.


We laugh and cry until we reconcile ourselves

to the contradictions we contain.


We realize America as a home for diversity

and interconnectedness.


We change the recipe form the mass-produced,

propaganda packaged apple pie

to the heirloom tomatoes, corn, and homemade

apple crumble.


We embrace the grace of humility, pursuing

the boundaries of what it means to be American.


Americans, we must not forget the dark side –

the blood and sorrow from the institution

of slavery.


We face up to our history and find within

the muck of our American soul: light!


America becomes the dream: the sense of duty,

Responsibility, compassion and freedom forms

A tapestry of possibilities.


Let us wear it like a cloak of many cultures.