Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Unsung Third Stanza

There's a great deal of talk right now about the National Anthem, to kneel or not to kneel. I am a big fan of Colin Kaepernik, not just because of his political stance but for all the philanthropic work he is doing for those at the margins of life.

This morning, I came across this poem and found it dovetails with my own thoughts, though this poet has so perfectly and so beautifully stated them

A New National Anthem

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

~ Ada Limon

If you're not familiar with Ada Limon, here's a link to her site:


  1. Our own God save the Queen is scarcely any more appropriate to the modern world but at least contains the stanza:
    Lord make the nations see
    That men should brothers be
    And form one family
    The wide world o'er.
    I can't remember the context but I'm sure that Kurt Vonnegut referred to the Star Spangled Banner as "gibberish sprinkled with question marks". Trump is so sure of himself he'll probably have the question marks removed.

    1. That does sound like Vonnegut, and he was so often right.

      We are in a horrible state here ...

      But, it's good to see you! :)

  2. It's so good to "see" you here, Teresa. It's been a long time and yes, we are in state, aren't we? Thank you for that lovely poem.

    1. Thank you, Jan. And you are most welcome. The poem really hit home for me.

  3. Thank you for this poem, Teresa. I needed to read just this poem right now.

  4. I refused to stand and sing this in high school in protest of the Vietnam War and got detention. Figures our anthem would include war and fighting. Never cared for it. Yes--apropos. ;)

    1. I love that you took a stand, or sat, in this case. :)

  5. I love that we can take a stand, no matter what it is.

    "The land of the free..."

  6. Powerful post. Ada Limon's poem is accurate. It's decidedly time to consider global prosperity over regional supremacy. War is a stubborn anachronism that has no place in the modern world.