Coughing Up the Flag

Matt Pasca

without breath, eagle is meaningless – terri muuss

It’s been three weeks—mid July hacking 
as if my chest were wet with pinballs-

graduation’s spiteful nodes for me 
to choke out & I look out & on TV 

brown hands surround South Carolina’s 
state house in a halo, hailing 

an undoing, the air itself drenched 
with song & relieved of another 

confederate X—13 more stars 
hacked from our endless 

national convulsion. I want 
to sing along but can’t

want to cheer but think instead
of little Bryson sniffing marigolds

saying streetlights mean mutant 
ninja turtles with bandanas & swords

will bring vitamins at bedtime, who 
is all three year-old cheeks & lashes 

all pupil-wild romance with pencil 
grip & swim class kicking. Even now

eyes red with bias & white benefit 
expunge his interior, the Captain America 

shield on his pillow, naps on dad’s chest
or road trip carseat, switch his body 

for savage. Someday, they will find his placid 
skin where they can fear it—marshaled thugs 

standing their ground under streetlights 
where no Rafael or Leonardo can save 

Bryson’s beauty from a heart’s worst 
mutation. This is not the end of peristalsis-

it is more like sobbing
like trapped breath

like freedom doubled over
some glory it might have known.


about the writer


Matt Pasca is a poet, teacher and traveler who believes in art’s ability to foster discovery, empathy and justice. He has authored two poetry collections--A Thousand Doors (2011 Pushcart nominee) and Raven Wire (2017 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist)—and serves as Assistant Poetry Editor of 2 Bridges Review. In his corner of New York, Matt facilitates The Sunday Grind, a bi-weekly writing workshop, curates Second Saturdays @Cyrus, a popular poetry series, and spreads his unwavering faith in critical thought and word magic to his Poetry, Mythology and Literature students at Bay Shore High School, where he has taught for 22 years and been named a New York State Teacher of Excellence.