At the Naturalization Ceremony by Greg Watson

At the Naturalization Ceremony

The families begin arriving early, the men in freshly
pressed suits, pocket squares, the women in bold-patterned
dresses and colors that defy the gray drizzling skies,
their faces without exception beaming with light,
young children at their sides looking up,
knowing this day to be something extraordinary.
“There are people who live here who hate this country,”
the young woman from Colombia explains
to a local newscaster, shaking her head, “but to us,
this is still The Promised Land. It’s everything.”
I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, who, too,
arrived with nothing, learned to speak this strange, unruly
language, drive cars, fight this nation’s many wars.
It’s hard to imagine my steely-eyed great-grandfather,
never caught smiling in a photo, wearing a face of
such unabashed joy. But what do I know of another’s heart?
I know only this moment this day, this swell of pride
as these new citizens make their way up Kellogg Boulevard,
their small flags waving in the chilly damp air.
It is as though a hundred or more makeshift boats were
setting out, each on a separate but similar course.
Even when they have all but vanished from view,
their voices can still be heard, singing, laughing,
proclaiming — so many different dialects, different
songs, so many different ways to say Home.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This poem’s clear narrative is punctuated by a single metaphor that perfectly describes the idea of what our country could be, and is, in the hearts of many hopeful people.

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