A Poem by Lynn Melnick

July 4th, 2017

Yes, I went the long way to avoid a certain shopkeeper
who grunts at me

and instead I passed a street vendor
selling star-spangled towels and a tank top that reads

I HAVE NO TITS and I wish I was fearless
enough to ask who that shirt is meant for, and if,

at this point in time, we should even consider irony.
I’ve had tits for three decades

so I’m used to going the long way.
Fellow Americans,

I’m going to tell you something I’ve known
since childhood. Men who want to hurt you?

They want to hurt you
because it makes them feel good to hurt you.

Still, I’ll admit, I woke up this morning so terribly sexy
at 43, one hand on my thigh the other

in my hair, that I almost didn’t worry
a world past my own flesh.

I recognize my own fireworks.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up!

That whole song is about guns and women.
That whole song is about toxic masculinity.

Stop calling after me. The curve of my flesh
will not accommodate this hour in our history

and while many congrats on your dazzling wit
and your luxe two-toned riding boot

on my throat, my fellow Americans,

I’m curious what combination of fear and admiration
makes a noise like father’s gun, only a nation louder.


Lynn Melnick is the author of the poetry collections Landscape with Sex and Violence and If I Should Say I Have Hope, and the co-editor of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation. Currently a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, she serves on the Executive Board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.