“A Flag Unfit to Fly,” poetry by Tim Kahl

A Flag Unfit to Fly

The flag stayed up way too long and no one
knew how to properly retire it. It had been
raised too quickly. The young men in cargo pants
had not seen the skit about flag etiquette.
They faced the flag and held their breath,
sensing a vague feeling within themselves
it should not hang in the dark. The light should
shine on it when they pledge allegiance,
when they remove their hats and throw their
baritone voices at the shadow it casts on the wall.
They see it as symbol for when a dollar
will not be a dollar, for when the world is
ready to ask them what it’s owed. This flag
is made in China and recommended for sale.
This flag is brought to you by the makers of
shredded fate. The young men in cargo pants
watch it wave as it gloats at them. They must
pay attention. They picture it draped over
a rape stand. They imagine it as seat cushion,
as handkerchief, packaged as durag.
They must clean up after yesterday’s mishaps.
The young men in cargo pants carry
a knife and a compass in their pockets,
and when they find a tattered flag
no longer a fitting emblem for display,
they ceremoniously lower it,
according to some ad hoc protocol.
Where should they carry it?
No one remembers if they should bury it,
hang it upside down or burn it.
Or maybe ask if it might be
entertaining enough
to live with it in the most ordinary way.

Tim Kahl (timkahl.com) is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012), The String of Islands (Dink, 2015), and Omnishambles (Bald Trickster Press, 2019). He is also editor of Clade Song (cladesong.com). He is Vice President and Events Coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has a public installation in Sacramento, {In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth}. He plays flutes, guitars, ukuleles, charangos, and cavaquinhos. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes.

Audio provided by author.

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