POEM | The Pledge

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THE PLEDGE

by douglas john imbrogno

1.

We must imagine
a better country, after
the orange man in

the white house goes.
Tote our losses & our
wounds. Revelations

about our neighbor’s
secret selves. The sign,
the flag, rippling in

the wind. That says—
‘Off with your head. I
am his man. Or

daughter. His
people.’ Whose
people?

2.

Whose flag? What
does this flag
which supersedes

the country’s mean?
It’s been a half-century
or about since

I placed
my right hand
on my left chest.

Uttered those words—
‘I pledge allegiance …’
I never comprehended

to whose allegiance or
even why. The flag, hauled
inch-by-inch against

blue skies, storm clouds.
Why this colored cloth
deserved my swearing in.

3.

So, I stopped. I’d stand.
I didn’t wish to call
attention to my boycott

of words I never
understood. Of
adherence I

no longer felt
compelled to honor
with my hand. Or my

heart. My life,
even. Or my
father’s, who almost

bought the farm
when one of der
Führer’s well-made

German torpedoes
blasted his boat in
the Atlantic, one day

on choppy seas. He
lived. But had he
not, I’d have a

tri-fold memorial
flag in pyramidal
wooden case

with an official
memoir of his
ultimate gift, to

recall his bones at
the bottom of the
sea. Then, perhaps,

these white stars,
red stripes, white
bars & blue field

the shade of midnight
might resonate. As it
is, my heart, not

covered by my
right hand, more
reveres this

warm day in July
the afro’d quarterback
who torpedoed

his career. To kneel
instead of revere
what is, after all,

just a colored
design, printed on
rectangles of thick cloth.

To, for the moment
of the kneel, revere lives
that need more mattering.

4.

Not to disrespect
your own respect, should
you still pledge

allegiance to the
flag. Should you
be kind. And raise up

honest children.
Or be a childless
honest sort.

Man, woman, child.
More power to
you. You

embody, then, in
your self, the several
dreams of America.

And not the
nightmare through
which the country,

this country, sleepwalks.
Or, dazed, awaking far
from restful sheets, stares,

aghast at the hour.
Exhausted. Waiting
for the dawn.


july24.2020 | kentucky


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2 Comments

  • Sue Julian

    This poem is remarkably honest, profound, and true for me too. Thanks, Doug, for sharing your gift of words in ways that brings me (and others) to wordless places felt, viscerally known, and now understood. Om shanti – Sue

    • Douglas Imbrogno

      Thank you, Sue. It is precious to me that these words speak to the heart of someone whose heartfulness I so admire.

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