Ameri-can by Atar Hadari

Atar Hadari trained as an actor then won a scholarship to study poetry and playwrighting with Derek Walcott at Boston University. His SONGS FROM BIALIK: SELECTED POEMS of H. N. BIALIK” (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award and his debut collection, REMBRANDT’S BIBLE, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2013. LIVES OF THE DEAD: POEMS of HANOCH LEVIN” was recently awarded a Pen Translates 2016 grant and is forthcoming from Arc Publications in 2017. He contributes a monthly verse bible translation column to MOSAIC magazine.

I was drinking a Coke one day
at a Grateful Dead concert
and I saw a man beaten to death
with his arms‑ his arms were held back
a way they couldn't've been
‑he was like an American eagle y'know?
And his legs were folded up beneath him.
They beat him till his head was the colour of the fence
‑it was a barbed wire fence, all holes and stench
and the fence should've turned red
the way they were zapping him into it‑
I mean‑ they were just zapping him into it‑
they kept saying "Tell us, tell the man‑
I'm a poor nigger, sir,
and I'm sorry for what I done‑"
and he wouldn't say it‑
and his head just turned brown.
I mean‑ he was black‑ it was brown‑
everybody's skin is a certain colour
‑but the fence -it -wouldn't turn red.
And they kept.. I stood there and ‑ I mean‑
I mean I was just drinking a Coke and then‑
I mean I was DRINKING a COKE and this policewoman
came up to me and said
"Excuse me, what are you doing here?
‑this isn't a public show!" And I said: "No, excuse ME
I'm going to stand RIGHT HERE- this is democracy
I'm going to stand RIGHT HERE
I'm a CITIZEN‑"
my friend called me from behind
the bushes, "Cissy! C'mere! Now!"
and I remembered the mushrooms in my pocket
they had me there for life
and I faded like the wind. So fast.
And the policewoman disappeared. I don't know where she went.
I think I have may have to throw up again
over there maybe behind that statue of Thomas Jefferson.
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