Pledge

Elizabeth Powell
Republic, your cool hands
On my schoolgirl shoulders.
Not sure what allegiances meant
Until the vows were held by heart,
By memory, by rote, by benign betrothal.
Republic, you were mine, I knew
Because of Mother's religious pamphlets:
Lindsay for Mayor.
McGovern for President.
How to Register Voters.
I didn't ever want to go to school
On Saturdays. The baby-sitter said
If Nixon won, I'd have to go. Me,
Your most cherished child bride.
I wanted a white communion dress
Like the ones the Catholic girls wore.
Republic, you know I wanted to play
Cards with Mother. Mother smoking
Marlboros, watching Watergate all week.
Citizen Mother all consumed at that confessional.
I liked the name Betsy Ross.
I liked the idea of sewing flags.
I liked the tattered textbook about the colonies.
So tender, so tender. My Republic,
I am pledged by my childish troth
So strangely to you.

From The Republic of Self by Elizabeth Powell, published by New Issues Poetry & Prose. Copyright © 2001 by Elizabeth Powell. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

From The Republic of Self by Elizabeth Powell, published by New Issues Poetry & Prose. Copyright © 2001 by Elizabeth Powell. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Elizabeth Powell

Elizabeth Powell