The Republic

/ /

When the Star-Spangled Banner crackled into fragments
of applause, and cannons thumped the sky with blanks,

the poison in the thermometer sank a little deeper,
but hell, if we would let that keep us from our children,

however lame our backs or vulnerable the offensive line;
the price we pay, knowing a sacrifice for the team spoke

volumes of our ritual need to pretend victory or loss
would matter much or long or express some higher purpose,

a power more sharply felt in the shock that sweeps us
into one hush, one speechlessness where anthems go,

on the heels of boys carried off unconscious or, God
willing, revived, waving to the strange ovation like a flag.