Rodney Jones


Griffin Poetry Prize 2007
International Shortlist

Book: Salvation Blues

Poet: Rodney Jones

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Rodney Jones reads The United States

The United States, by Rodney Jones

The United States

If you asked what it is all about
I would say a field a green field
in the turning rows a killdeer
and after that barbed wire
the hedge with its cardinals
a blacktop then another field

Corn one of the main things
after water and before milk
for whiskey is in it and grits
gold for chickens pearls before swine
there is a factory in every plant
if we could be properly humble

it is the greatness of the nation
along with cartoon animation
automobiles and rock ‘n’ roll
jazz and basketball evolved here
but not one other U.S. God
just the corn’s imperial row

on row then Sylvester Stallone
and airbrushed Elvis thank you
very much ladies and gentlemen
Presley Dylan and the Supremes
no I would say a field a vast field
at the center top-hogs and cattle

then art the cities New York
Chicago Houston Seattle man
told me last week experts can
teach starlings to talk hell
televangelists may yet witness
in terza rima each stalk of corn

contributes it has been so
hybridized with its immense
ears it no longer resembles
maize it is what we have left
to barter for oil and microchips
tones of it siloed and elevated

to float us through droughts
and wars and speculations we ask
which most cogently represents us
Leaves of Grass or The Simpsons
there is the idea that every
living thing is a subset of human

control and the other notion
that though we may go on
a few hundred or thousand
years the poison has spilled
no more land will be made
the search for another arable

planet may prove moot as the
search for earthly sentience
meanwhile this taco here
crunches in the great scheme of
things we persist one people one
of the potential fates of corn

From Salvation Blues: One Hundred Poems, 1985-2005, by Rodney Jones
Copyright © 2006 by Rodney Jones

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