Ameri-can by Atar Hadari

I was drinking a Coke one day

at a Grateful Dead concert

and I saw a man beaten to death

with his arms‑ his arms were held back

a way they couldn’t’ve been

‑he was like an American eagle y’know?

And his legs were folded up beneath him.

They beat him till his head was the colour of the fence

‑it was a barbed wire fence, all holes and stench

and the fence should’ve turned red

the way they were zapping him into it‑

I mean‑ they were just zapping him into it‑

they kept saying “Tell us, tell the man‑

I’m a poor nigger, sir,

and I’m sorry for what I done‑”

and he wouldn’t say it‑

and his head just turned brown.

I mean‑ he was black‑ it was brown‑

everybody’s skin is a certain colour

‑but the fence -it -wouldn’t turn red.

And they kept.. I stood there and ‑ I mean‑

I mean I was just drinking a Coke and then‑

I mean I was DRINKING a COKE and this policewoman

came up to me and said

“Excuse me, what are you doing here?

‑this isn’t a public show!” And I said: “No, excuse ME

I’m going to stand RIGHT HERE- this is democracy

I’m going to stand RIGHT HERE


my friend called me from behind

the bushes, “Cissy! C’mere! Now!”

and I remembered the mushrooms in my pocket

they had me there for life

and I faded like the wind. So fast.

And the policewoman disappeared. I don’t know where she went.

I think I have may have to throw up again

over there maybe behind that statue of Thomas Jefferson.

Atar Hadari trained as an actor then won a scholarship to study poetry and playwrighting with Derek Walcott at Boston University. His SONGS FROM BIALIK: SELECTED POEMS of H. N. BIALIK” (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award and his debut collection, REMBRANDT’S BIBLE, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2013. LIVES OF THE DEAD: POEMS of HANOCH LEVIN” was recently awarded a Pen Translates 2016 grant and is forthcoming from Arc Publications in 2017. He contributes a monthly verse bible translation column to MOSAIC magazine.