"Face the Sun"
His head wilts the way a sunflower does, or like the gentle arch of a sleepy eyelid. Out of courtesy we ignore it, but his brightness is receding. Drying petals leached of eternal gold are slowly revealing his rusting veins. As we lean down gingerly and curl our fingers around its stem, we notice it no longer faces the sun.
“Oh say, can you see?
By the dawn’s early light,
What’s so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming?”
He owes his life to the crushed matter that makes soil, his sly and merciless foundation that either breathes life or brings inhabitability, as it pleases.
“And the rockets red glare,”
His floral skin is crumbling to fragments, flaking like dust or fine herbs onto the earth that rests below him. Earlier, he faced the sun, arms extended toward the sky.
“The bombs bursting in air,”
And somehow, he still thanks the earth.
“Gave proof, through the night,
That our flag was still there.”
As he should. Because, though he wilts, he is planted firmly in sturdy land.
“O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
Over the land of the free and the home of the brave.”