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Anthem
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Published: Tue Jul 01 2014
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Anthem

When you overhear a familiar song by Elvis on the radio
Of the vintage hot-rod Ford that some stoned tool-and-die maker,
With red eyes shaded by wrap-around sunglasses,
Drives up and down the dull main street of his old hometown
Of Altoona, Pennsylvania, or Vinita, Oklahoma,
On vacation from his nightmares of battles in Vietnam
Long after his sideburns and ponytail have grayed,
And the tattoos of the flag, the motto, and the pin-up girl
Above and below the slightly arthritic elbow
That he rests on the sill of the rolled-down window
In Decatur, Alabama, or Barstow, California,
Have been rendered illegible, warped, torn, and frayed
By the drying of certain subcutaneous fatty tissues
And the subsequent wrinkling of his freckled flesh,
Then—then you might wonder, stopping to watch him pass
And recognizing a classic like “Heartbreak Hotel”
Or “Jailhouse Rock” coming out of the window,
Like a bat right out of a hell that only he can know
With a billow of smoke from his unfiltered Camel,
Whether everyone in the country could just stop fighting,
Gather on dance floors all over this enormous country,
In Topeka, Kansas, Anchorage, Alaska, and Rome, Georgia,
Twisting and shouting again to a tune as famous
In the islands of Hawaii and the Ozarks of Missouri
As in the plains of Texas and the Cumberlands of Kentucky,
Something frivolous, light, and fluffy, but precise, charmed,
And catchy, like “Tutti Frutti,” “That’s All Right,”
Or “My Baby Left Me,” to bring us all together
And disturb the staid tranquility of the shopkeepers’ street
In Wahoo, Nebraska, and St. Augustine, Florida,
But also to numb the pain of the irritating hemorrhoids
He exacerbates by spending so much of his free time
In the driver’s seat of one of the several vintage automobiles
He keeps in his big garage—a bucket seat that fits
His lazy ass so perfectly, like a throne does the king’s—
In his hippie town in Vermont, his crab town in Maryland,
His lumber town in Oregon, or his lobster port
In Maine—the cherry-red ’69 Thunderbird
Convertible, the forest-green ’67 white-walled Galaxie,
Or the white ’65 eight-barrel Mustang four-on-the-floor
With the pebbled black roof and the four fine doors.

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