America has produced two chess champions.
Each of them descended into madness in his prime.
Bobby Fischer – 1976
Paul Morphy – 1886

It's not a coincidence.
It turns out that the atmosphere inside
the tightest elbows of rationality
is toxic to nerves stewed in the prairie grass
hormones of an empire's adolescence,
that the price of smearing blank-verse
across a stolen continent
is a padlock on your father's attic door.

America is a teenage ex-wife
with a fork stuck in her gums,
pouring gasoline down your spine
because combustion is how reality says its prayers—
reality the cold furious angel
popping up everywhere with a fistful
of answers to all the wrong questions.

We came here to grovel to our secrets,
to smother age,
to bottle youth,
to butter eternal valleys with
the stench of unwashed discontent.

America is the chapter where the tigress finally
kills you or you finally kill her.
Where you furnish your own abyss,
bloody your own cell walls,
give birth to your own victims,
learn how to spit on the tribes who
sail here after you've lost sight of the shore.

When Solomon dragged us up off our rocks,
he promised to chop off Europe's nightmares,
to let numbers add themselves up without
the broth of history trickling down our legs.

But when you tango with the ocean
your lungs grow damp with fear.
The kind of fear that leaks into your horseshoes,
that clogs your slumber with rattlesnakes.

It's the nautical equivalent
of collapsing on God's breasts
when you're too coked up to just believe.

Future chess champions of this nation be warned…
destiny's skeletons won't keep you airborne
as your brains soar off to barbecue the sun.

When the wax melts off your wings,
the tortures of flesh will
be all that stand between you
and the scorpion's smile.

The furnace of redemption
has fed so many veins
with myths and proteins,
it's easy to forget
that there's a pulse
on the other side of
a bargain,
that a solitary sacrifice
can blind a billion stars.

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