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The Proper Way to Prepare the U.S. Flag

By Carmin Wong

“I think the artist should be returned to his heritage, i.e, the jungles of Africa and then he can shovel manure in his artistic way.”

—M. Lehr commenting on Dread Scott’s transgressive 1989 artwork, “What is The Proper Way to Display a US Flag?”, as shared in Scott’s 2018 TED Talk.

Start with something simple: 13 loosely   lingering    light-hearted lines that eventually morph
/ into crowbars ★ corps ★ prison cells ★ bylines.     Slave ships.     Carve the middle passage out
perfectly. Mark its territory / mask its name. Hang it from a cypress. Call everyone for show.
Sing of conquest ♪ conquest, conquest, conquest, conquest, conquest ♪ Trace over bloodlines.
Call it SAVAGERY unity. Shade it red until it stains. Call it sacrifice. Silent as The Last Night
/ Jesus walked / Call it holy. ((Let's start again)) Start with something simple: draw 50 bullet
holes into the formation of a third eye. ★ Hold it like memorabilia against your heart and pray ★
and pray ★ and prey for your allegiance. Hold it against your chest and pray for democracy.
Hold it against a wall ★ turn it into a border / / a blockade / / an enclosure.
Watch it strip the existence from under you. Leave you behind in star ★ spangled pieces. Call it a
dispersal diaspora. ((Let's start again)) Start with something simple: paint its stars into a
midnight eulogy ★★★ / wrangle it from your bootstraps / wave it into thick air / signify your
marching ★ order / wallowing spirituals / hollering tongues / watch it / ★ /

/ hang.


Supplemental Image Description: 

This poem contains symbols integrated into the lines, such as music notes, stars, and strikethroughs.

Musical eighth note symbols appear in line with the text before and after the phrase "conquest, conquest, conquest, conquest, conquest." 

13 star symbols appear throughout the poem. Stars appear between the words "crowbars  corps   prison cells  bylines," before and after the phrase "Hold it like memorabilia against your heart and pray," after the phrase "and pray," after the phrase "Hold it against a wall," after the phrase "Leave you behind in star," three stars appear after the phrase "midnight eulogy," one star appears between the words "marching" and "order," and one star appears between slashes after "watch it" in the last line of the poem.

There are three instances where words that are crossed out. After "Carve the middle" the word "passage" is crossed out. After "Trace over bloodlines. / Call it," the word "SAVAGERY" is crossed out. After "spangled pieces. Call it a," the word "dispersal" is crossed out.

The poem also includes slashes and extended space between some words.




Listen as Carmin Wong reads "The Proper Way to Prepare the U.S. Flag."

Added: Friday, August 28, 2020  /  Used with permission. Forthcoming in "Ellipsis."
Carmin Wong
Photo by Nikki Mayeux.

A graduate of Howard University, Carmin Wong is a Guyanese-born poet, playwright, and scholar of literature. Wong has been awarded a 2020 “pet project” grant from Jeremy O. Harris and The Bushwick Starr and Honorable Mention for the 2020 Andrea Saunders Gereighty/Academy of American Poets Poetry Award. In 2019, she received a Furious Flower Summer Legacy Fellowship in addition to being featured twice on WRBH: Reading Radio. Her work has been staged at the Kennedy Center and she has performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Scholastic Auditorium, Lincoln Center. Her poems are featured in or forthcoming by Antenna Press, Xavier Review, and Ellipses Journal. Wong is the founder of What You Reading? The Series. Visit @WhatYouReadingTheSeries on Instagram to learn more.

Other poems by this author