Tag Archives: Pledge of Allegiance

The Year I Was Diagnosed with a Sacrilegious Heart  

This poet grew up with an activist father and he certainly took it to heart as you’ll see in this poem.  That the concept of compromise is offered in school amazes me. I also remember my own unwillingness to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and wish today that we lived in a world where compromises seem possible.

The Year I Was Diagnosed with a Sacrilegious Heart                              Martín Espada

At twelve, I quit reciting

the Pledge of Allegiance,

could not salute the flag

in 1969, and I,

undecorated for grades or sports,

was never again anonymous in school.


A girl in homeroom

caught my delinquent hand

and pinned a salute

against my chest;

my cafeteria name was Commie,

though I too drank the milk

with presidential portraits on the carton;

but when the school assembly stood

for the flags and stiff soldiers’ choreography

of the color guard,

and I stuck to my seat

like a back pocket snagged on coil,

the principal’s office

quickly found my file.

A balding man in a brown suit

asked me if I understood compromise,

and we nodded in compromise,

a pair of Brooklyn wardheelers.


Next assembly, when the color guard

marched down the aisle,


I stood with the rest,

then pivoted up the aisle,

the flags and me

brushing past each other

without apologies,

my unlaced sneakers

dragging out of the auditorium.


I pressed my spyglass eye

against the doors

for the Pledge:

no one saw my right hand

crumpled in a pocket

instead of spreading

across my sacrilegious heart.


Ceremony done, the flagpoles

pointed their eagle beaks at me,

and I ducked

under their shifting banner wings

back to my seat,

inoculated against staring,

my mind a room after school

where baseball cards

could be stacked by team

in a plastic locker.