The Rise and Fall of the United States of America
When these days I hear some folks speak of pride,
“American Exceptionalism,”
and how they don’t need to apologize
for any damn thing, I think of the shark.

Specifically, the Greenland shark swimming
in the North Atlantic right now—somewhere
between Plymouth, England, and Plymouth Rock—
that has lived for nearly three hundred years.

I think of it swimming as it has swum
through the drafting of high ideals and through
the mockery of same with chains and whips
and ropes and trees and dogs and grand juries.

It has swum through the Gettysburg Address
and through Burr’s pistol shot, Booth’s lead bullet,
Kennedy’s strewn gray matter, and the flash
that wiped out tens of thousands in Japan.

It has swum through Columbine and Newtown,
through El Paso and Pittsburgh and Vegas,
through Ferguson and Charlottesville and flames,
and through zombie crowds chanting “U-S-A!”

Researchers gauge the age of Greenland sharks
by carbon dating cornea. Their eyes
are tiny, parasites dangling from most.
The poor old things are slow and quite, quite blind.
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