On Both Knees

by Jorge Dante Hernandez Prosperi 2020

O say can you see 
black men hanging from a tree

by the dawn’s early light
caged niños weep in the night

What so proudly we hailed
a paradox that failed

at the twilight’s last gleaming?
open soul wounds still bleeding

Whose broad stripes and bright stars
keep blacks and browns behind bars

through the perilous fight
privileged whiteness always right

O’er the ramparts we watch’d
justice for some left untouched

were so gallantly streaming?
native mothers still screaming

And the rocket’s red glare
inherited shame to spare

the bomb bursting in air
body bags without fanfare

Gave proof through the night
“I can’t breathe!” cry nonwhites 

that our flag was still there
empty promises waft in the air

Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
the road to equality waits to be paved

O’er the land of the free
folks still singing “let it be!”

and the home of the brave?
troopers storm to keep the slave