A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

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How Should I Salute the Flag in This Ghost Town Called America? by Susan Michele Coronel

How Should I Salute the Flag in This Ghost Town Called America?

       a golden shovel using the words of The Pledge of Allegiance

Either everyone is a Jew or no one is a Jew—a shaky binary for a faltering I

that can never feel at home, even with birch bark white skin. I pledge

not to hide my identity, not to change my name, or get a nose job. I prefer allegiance

to a higher good, to tune my pulse to the rhythm of hope in a country my grandfather fled

to escape poverty & pogroms in the Polish town where his mother ran a bar. The

only cure for hopelessness was an Atlantic voyage to a land where you salute a flag

of stars & stripes, kiss a cloth that sings, even though it was stitched of

privileged hands, while other hands—those of the Jew & the indigent, the

slave & the Chippewa chief—were not welcomed. Jews united

during the second Eastern European wave, gathering in small conclaves in states

where they stuffed scraps of integrity into pockets, ate knishes, & wore coats of

fur in summer. My grandfather whistled through paper, belonged to a greater America.

The jumbled states ached for him to belong, & he ached for them. And

I ask: To whom do we belong, to which forefathers & foremothers’ songs? To

hell with it, America, we want to be who we are without shame. The

lost & the found breathe & breed for posterity, which is always a noble thing in a republic

protected by higher angels with scarred wings & fluttering hearts. We do it for

the country that our ancestors left behind. We do it for this sovereign nation which

is dying inside. America is the youth of the world, idealistic but not knowing it-

self well enough. It’s the place we turn to, return to, reinventing itself even as it stands

at attention with its pants down. For a Jew, America is the safest place we can find. One

knows anyone can turn against us on a dime, paint a swastika, or call us dirty kike while the nation

sleeps. I am not religious but Yiddish words define me, help me under-

stand & remember myself like a blue vein on my forearm. O God,

I know you shudder when we can’t breathe. A ghost with a sore throat. You are indivisible

& stand by my side, whispering into my lungs & nostrils with

bittersweet breath. Why is it so hard to understand that each pilgrim arcs toward liberty?

This is the story of how we survive. Recoil & fire, every action producing an equal &

opposite reaction. To whom should I pray? Or should I stop making people gods & pursue justice

in a nation that aspires to include, no matter how badly it deludes? I ache for

hope rising from shards of memory. I summon home from lost fragments, warts & all.

Susan Michele Coronel

Susan Michele Coronel lives in New York City. Her poems have appeared in publications including Spillway 29, The Inflectionist Review, Gyroscope Review, The Night Heron Barks, Prometheus Dreaming, One Art, TAB Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, and Passengers Journal. In 2021 one of her poems was runner-up for the Beacon Street Poetry Prize, and another was a finalist in the Millennium Writing Awards. In the same year, she received a Pushcart nomination and was longlisted for the Sappho Prize. Her first full-length poetry manuscript was a finalist for Harbor Editions' 2021 Laureate Prize.



Susan Michele Coronel