america

Though to the outer waking world Sheba’s dream is only a few seconds, in her sleep she understands it’s a long voyage. Poised at the ship’s bow, transmitting a distant song, she sails in search of the word that will name her, a word for those who’ve never belonged anywhere and who make their own belonging in the same way that people used to name themselves after where they belonged, the same word as that for the grief that goes on grieving for what’s not remembered but can’t be forgotten. As the girl and her brother and mother and father step from the boat onto shore, the word isn’t paradise or heaven or utopia or promisedland but rather a name as damaged as it is spellbinding to everyone who’s heard since the first time anyone spoke it, then tarnished it, then hijacked it, then exploited it, then betrayed and debased and then emptied ┬áit, loving the sound of it while despising everything it means that can’t be denied anyway because it’s imprinted on the modern gene which is to say that even as the girl pursues it, it’s already found her, passed on by her adopted father in whose ear it was whispered one afternoon when, from a crowd desperate to hear the secret of it, he was pulled by a young woman of the Old World and the beginning of time, and now it binds daughter and father though neither knows it, she carries it in her fierce core, armed to defend it with that blade of a finger she draws across her throat, and the word is america. (Steve Erickson, These Dreams of You, 309).

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