How to Be an American in 2017

First, you must cup your cold hand around your ear
ready for hearing to listen and not to respond,
listen not to words but to the way her voice skips
up and down, maybe fake, and maybe she’s pausing
because she’s afraid of how you might respond.
Peer not at but into her, look for any brightness or
any solitude inside her eyes, use the portal, use it.
Use it to understand, use it to touch the sandpaper with
velvet hands. Let it tear them.

Be kind, a mostly useless phrase used by 20-something moms
thinking they can control a toddler. I write, be kind, aware
somehow it has to be said. When you buy your pack of
menthols, allow yourself time to look at the attendant—
no, not to look—to see. The librarian, the psychology
classmate, the waiter at the restaurant you really can’t afford.
Pry open the eyes you let close.

The world is negative enough as it is, really.
I remember the dove the Pope released as a sign of peace.
I remember how quickly it got killed and eaten by
other brutes less brute than us. We have enough caves.

Really what I’m trying to say is,
spam all your friends with that cute video you saw.

Listen not only to what’s around you,
no, listen to dead men’s words, listen to
words that drove bullets in writers’ chests,
confessions of compassion crimes,
prophetic yelling that once pummeled
through brains and soon left hearers’ ears—
evicted by dictators of convenience.

Remember that most lives are not glorious,
not explicitly. They weave on and on,
paperwork, office politics,
driving ungrateful kids to school.

If you’re ever tempted
to yell without thinking,
present a false skin,
stand on solely sand,

remember the only thing
you have control over, the
only thing you can change
is yourself.

Rob Linsley is a communication major and barista based in Michigan. His work has previously been recognized by the Liberal Arts Network for Development and published in WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship’s blog.

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3 Responses to How to Be an American in 2017

  1. kvennarad says:

    It’s a while since I visited ER. I see things haven’t changed much – still good stuff here!

  2. Pingback: Channeling Passion and Chaos: An Introduction – Journalism 340 – Rob Linsley

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