THE STAR--SPANGLED BANNER
I was sure then, as I sang along,
that the star-spangled banner was a glittery red gown
patterned with sequin constellations
and "Oh say" was Jose--
a fussy lover, the kind a woman had to dress up for,
the kind who had a small well-groomed moustache
and came from a country far away from America
where romance was even more spectacular than it was here.
Jose, can you see
by the dancerly light
what so proudly she hails
at the twilight's last gleaming...
Jose is on a balcony, his tuxedo more dapper than any other.
Or maybe he is on the deck of a cruise ship. Either way,
it's sunset and his new beloved, his own Miss America,
glides towards him in her star-spangled banner...
His indifference to her is unbearable. Jose, can you see?
she starts to sing. A mint toothpick dangles from his lips,
his eyes gloss over and he's in a place countries away
where all the other Joses are roasting meat over an open flame,
where senoritas huddle together in their fan-and-castanet glamour.
Who brought mites and bright stars
to the perilous fight?
All the remnants she bought
were so gallantly gleaming...
The red-dressed woman is used to having men notice her.
She starts to complain, whine really, interrupting Jose's
nostalgic dreaming. He can't stand her voice
so he clobbers his boring demanding American girlfriend
and she blinks cartoon stars, tiny flies
circling her head like planes waiting to land.
He doesn't know why he hits her exactly
except that maybe her kisses don't taste spicy enough.
He says, "You're American, I thought you were rich!"
as she fusses over a star that's fallen off her dress
and explains she made her flamenco gown herself
with material she bought on sale at a fabric store
that was going out of business in her small American town.
Jose's guilty hands cover his face.
He tells her he's never hit a woman before
as she pops up from the ground like a buxom Roadrunner
and shakes her coiffed head from side to side.
Jose reaches out his hand to help her as she lifts
her star-spangled skirt. Her legs whirl faster than fan blades
and she is off, zooming across America, leaving Jose
choking in the cloud of dust she trails.
Jose, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
Do you miss her, Jose?
Do you miss the dress she sewed thinking only of you?
Did you stick around the United States
or return to a place where the women know
exactly how to please their Joses,
where your waxy facial hair will forever be in style?
She told me to tell you, Jose, that she forgives everything
and hopes that you're happy.
he hopes, too, that you can forgive her first-grade self
for creating you out of a song where you didn't even exist
and then having you do some pretty crummy things.
Please know that your would-be American girlfriend
still pines for you, Jose, somewhere in Nebraska or North Dakota.
She has a slew of kids now and her red dress is in storage.
She cries when she watches reruns of I Love Lucy,
Ricky's accent so much like how she remembers yours.