Portrait of America – a poem by John Ian Bush

Bridges and ever-going gray blacktop roads lined with cars, both moving slowly through traffic and parked against the unpainted curb;

Cars of reds,




more Black,






Sidewalk you can see the vents and the chimneys of buildings, building, buildings, banks, buildings, apartments, apartments, pawn shops, pawn shops, pawn shops, pharmacies and restaurants;

You can see the steam or smoke or exhaust rising from those vents and those chimneys, and they look pure and beautiful from the sidewalks when the sun’s down and things are quiet and the sky’s holding the moon.

Buildings and banks all look beasty and mighty; they stand like man,

With presence and propose,

Cocky and big and proud and popping their chests

At everyone.

But unlike men,

Their faces are brick and emotionless,

Unlike men,

They have a bunch of black glass eyes,

They have black glass eyes, and inside those eyes are rooms,

lifeless at night.


In apartment buildings,

Families eat pork chop dinners,

Watch TV,

Scroll through Facebook.


In apartment buildings,

Men shower,

Women bath and shave their legs and sing and shampoo their hair,





Beers and smoke cigarettes

And watch the News:

“Damn Obama this.”

“Damn Republicans that.”

“Damn economy, damn.”

“Damn congress, shit.”


In apartment buildings,

The women type on phones,

And pets the cats,

And pets the dogs,

Some men wash and dry the dishes in the kitchen sink, then go shave their faces in the bathroom sink,

Then sleep on mattress next to coffee tables and alarm clocks.

Other men stay up later, drink more beer and watch movies with their dogs and women and fill up ash trays with the butts of cigarettes.


Then there’s the bars.



Neon signs, alcohol, alcohol,

College students and bar flies alike playing pool and darts.


I am walking in the parking lot of the grocery store, my coat’s buttoned up and my sweater’s stained with tea.

I’m walking with friends, they all have cold finger,

They’re smoking,





But overall, they’re happy,

And I am too.

Passed us, there’s more gray blacktop roads, roads, roads,




And a avenues,



The movie theater.

People smoking joints in the parking lot.



People drinking and fucking by the train tracks under the overpass.

Young folks run in the streets by the light of the street lambs,

From their house,

To a friends’ house,

To another friends’ house,

Back to the street,

To the sidewalk,




Youthful, forgetting the traffic lights,

To fast food places for a quick meal.

Then back out to the streets,

To the river, where, during the summer, they gather with friends to drink beer and smoke weed and raise Cane.


Now I hear a train.

The poets don’t talk about trains anymore.

I’ll talk about the trains.

Big long black beautiful metal snakes that roam America’s soil.



Trains are America.

Bridges and gray blacktop roads are America.

Banks and building and pawn shops are America.

Apartment buildings are America.

Families eating pork chops are America.

Cars are America.

Sidewalks are America.

Forgotten traffic lights are America.

Bars and bar flies are America.

The young folks running in the streets are America.






Published by


Modernist writer and poet.