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America, I Sing Back

By Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Added: Wednesday, June 25, 2014  /  Used by permission.
Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Photo by Gandhar Chakravarty

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke is a King*Chavez*Parks Award and an American Book Award-winning poet whose books include The Year of the Rat, Dog Road Woman, Off-Season City Pipe, Blood Run, Burn, and (2014) Streaming (with complete album by same title with the trio Rd Klā), as well as a memoir, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer (2014, paperback). She is the editor of the anthologies Sing: Poetry of the Indigenous Americas, Effigies and Effigies II (2014) and currently serves as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa. Hedge Coke came of age working fields, factories, and waters and is currently at work on a film, Red Dust: resiliency in the dirty thirties.

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