This is meant to be performed as a spoken word piece.  It’s based on true conversations with my dad’s mother, known as Mamus in our family.

***

My grandmother thinks I hate America.

She cried at the dinner table last Thanksgiving because

I believe in a woman’s right to choose,

and because I chose to eat tofu

instead of turkey.  Mamus doesn’t really “get” me:

she was a stay-at-home doctor’s wife

and has lived all her life

in a red state

so now I get the blues worrying

about what I’m going to say

the next time I see her, whether

I will confront the tears in those eyes

that are as blue as mine, or whether

I will just decide to hide.

“No, Mamus, I’m not dating any guys”

(And it’s true, but what would she say or do

if she knew I was seeing a girl instead?)  The same red

made-in-America blood flows in our veins,

we share bad backs and last names,

yet this is how we communicate

these days: I try not to tell my grandmother

what she doesn’t want to hear, and she still sends me

a card on my birthday

even though she thinks I hate this country.

But my grandmother, she is America

in all its star-striped sins and glory,

she is part of this fucked-up national family story and

I want to say to her, how could I hate

you, Mamus? How could I face you

in anger when we share so much more than DNA?

Cause yeah, I get the blues

in November just like you do, and we both like the taste

of Grey Goose

more than we ought to sometimes.

It would be simpler if I could grab onto hate, take the easy way

and just dismiss your views, and your irrevocably red state

but you, you gave me a father and a nickname, you’ve given me

stories, Christmas cookies, and a legacy

I can’t escape.  See way back in

your-my-our bloodline, there’s a slave

who shared a Confederate army tent with your great/not-so-great

grandfather; I don’t even know the name

of the man our ancestor owned, but I know they never gave

him a rifle to hold.  And though I am

tired of watching this shadow-puppet history replay

in shades of black and white, red, blue and gray,

I am not ashamed

of you or my bloody heritage.

I can’t hate America, because like it or not

this is the story that bore me

kicking and screaming

my face blue into the horror, and you were there

to welcome me into that first morning.

And I would rather bite my tongue down to blood than bring

tears to cloud your blue eyes and drown your voice, Mamus,

because it is my choice, Mamus

to accept this country’s red-stained history as my own

and try to transform it anyway.

I want to help create a nation where

you won’t worry about who I love–black, white, female, red or blue–

and where I won’t have to choose between

making a new America, and loving you.

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