Walt Whitman had ideas about what it meant to be a son and so he called his mother America and never spoke to his father. When he said hello he said America. When he said goodbye he said America. The soldiers who had already lost everything were the first to ask him why, and Whitman answered, America. Because he understood this was the only way to treat everyone the same and that the difference between sun and son is more than a letter. There's a pronunciation to our freedom, he claimed. And in the hospital he'd squeeze the soldiers’ lips until they said it right. America. America. Then he’d spread his arms and no one ever knew if they should hug him or tell him they too heard the difference. When a soldier died, Walt Whitman would make everyone awaiting a similar fate say a prayer that went, America America America America America. America. The soldiers wanted to know if they were pronouncing it right. It became so hard to tell anything when they had been dying such a long time. Whitman put a hand on their knees and nodded. America.
It started with rumors there were mountains behind the clouds. Americans wanted a place to get falafel and maybe somewhere all the disaffected teenagers could flee when their mayors wouldn't let them dance. They wanted something taller than the mountains so they could look down on the faces and win against history. The City grew up out of the ocean and everyone argued over whether or not it was an island. When buildings began to disappear into the clouds, no one could agree whether or not they were like stalagmites or stalactites. Or what the most authentic pizza place was. Or which museum was the best. Or what hotdogs were made out of. Or whether or not there was anything behind the clouds at all. Or if there was something underneath them. So many questions that the city fell down. As they bobbed in the water, Americans looked up and looked down and knew even less about direction. If the city is an island then everything is an island and if everything is an island there will be times the earth gets pulled back and the waves come up. That's when we'll know where we've really been storing our dead.
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