Fort Point at Amber
The long-disused lighthouse and museum
devoted to female and African-
American soldiers, the munitions room
where the sheen and heft of a cannonball armed
a few foreign tourists against cynicism,
all closed for the security season.
The windswept, unthreatened parapet, wedged
beneath the strategic Golden Gate bridge,
near where surfers braved the frigid
waves and suicide lost its terrors
for an imperious, powerless instant,
is now defended by two polite
reservists enforcing the Amber Alert
with casual AK-47s
and a Humvee with its doors wide open.
Private Chavez shrugs his automatic
weapon aside to point to a spot
where we may observe the historical site
at a safe distance, as though it were under
attack at that moment and we were reporters
sent to record our nation’s next martyrs.
A Coast Guard vessel cuts through the fiction
of overland threats, escorting freighters
past the blind look-out, into calm waters.
Inside, the airy barracks and tight,
winding stairways hold the forgotten fort
until the dust’s occupation settles
in to cover our latest retreat.
Every war has its setbacks, each trust its betrayal,
so the new tourists turn back in single file
and await the day when liberation will come
and Americans will reclaim this, their home.
November 5, 2008
On the day I became an American citizen,
the expected rain did not appear,
and my daughter danced, then threw a tantrum
because of what she couldn’t wear.
A building stood in our back yard
half-finished—a roof, no interior
amenities, no plumbing or siding—
but with a distinct possibility
of being done in time for Christmas.
Some paperwork sat on a shelf—
fresh-printed and handed to me in triumph—
the rest would be a formality
and a history lesson or two, but nothing
I hadn’t already heard about
on various road trips: trivial facts
and towering figures.
I thanked the voters
for having shown me the use to which
I too would one day put my memory.
I saw pictures of people whose patience
with this country made me ashamed
of my newcomer's irritations;
I saw the cause that they proclaimed
as something both greater than my own
and intimately involved with my future.
They were a generous and unwitting
welcoming party, caught up in the energy
of their desire to win this election.
I saw a candidate stand at the podium
humbled by what they expected of him;
I saw the tearful celebration
and finally knew where I stood.