New York poet Joe Tessitore challenges poets to begin a poem with these words:


My country used to be…


Post your poem in the comments section below. (Poems should be metered.)

44 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    My Country used to be
    Filled with great dignity;
    Each one his own.
    My country used to be
    More than a travesty —
    Who could have known we’d be
    Tied to a phone?

    Lost to reality,
    Wed to a flat TV;.
    Slaves to what we can’t see –.
    How we have grown.

    • James A. Tweedie

      And “God Save the Queen!”
      “Tis of thee,” Sally, that I sing.
      Nice, and both serious and funny at the same time, too.

      • Joe Tessitore

        Sally led off and hit it out of the park!

      • Sally Cook

        Thank you, James, both for making me the subject of your .comment, and for recognizing that I am often simultaneously serious and funny.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Poetry meets sagacity, wonderfully. Sally, your poem certainly captures the travesty of the modern era.

  2. Alan

    All Things Lofty

    My country used to be a book of myths,
    Believed to be the truth by working stiffs.

    Now those who seek the truth cannot make out
    Which info’s true, which info is in doubt.

    Our privacy’s destroyed by ones and noughts;
    Our jobs, usurped by ANI robots.

    Confusion never was this thick before;
    We cannot trust our neighbors anymore.

    When people do not have some faith and trust,
    Then all things lofty fall into the dust.

    No truth, no trust, no jobs, no clothes, no cash;
    Will we just sit and watch it slowly crash?

  3. Peter Austin

    My Country Used to Be

    My country used to be a rotten place
    Where blacks and reds received an equal place
    With whites who’re twice as blue as indigo
    And not too damn yellow to let it show;
    But now the Oval’s manned by one whose shade
    Is orange (note the hair that hasn’t greyed!)
    And loves to midnight-tweet in purple prose
    Instead of being scared of palest rose

    And kicks the shit from everything that’s pink
    And signs his name in spikes with ebon ink;
    Yet still, in every poll, he’s going down
    (Can’t you see where his pants are turning brown?),
    So, if you don’t want neighbours who’re Iraqi,
    Don’t vote the Dems back in: they’re full of khaki!

    [Paid for by the Donald Trump re-election campaign.]

    • Sally Cook

      Damn the cost, when near to Boston
      My folks fought at Bunker Hill —
      Other places, too. The traces
      Of their nation linger still.

      Who cares what the Donald’s hair is –
      Who says what the polls say? Do
      You reject our leader, where his
      Brain is must be bothering you.
      Can’t you see our country used to
      Have a vigorous bustling hum.
      Donald brought it back; will do
      Again; to hate him’s really dumb.

    • Joe Tessitore

      My verses demonstrate
      I am a child of hate.
      I am not whole.
      Completely overwrought,
      Incapable of thought,
      For pennies I’ve been bought,
      Shackled, my soul.

  4. T. M. Moore

    My country used to be
    an earth-bound entity
    firm built on sand.
    Upheavals, tumults, wars
    tattered her stripes and stars
    and left unhealing scars
    on ev’ry hand.

    This native land I love
    bends ‘neath the burden of
    self-love and hate.
    While far-off names contend
    for pow’r that knows no end
    and endless wealth to spend
    on projects great.

    We who the people are
    scattered both near and far
    over this land,
    our lost republic mourn;
    that which by blood was born
    now seems forever torn –
    how shall it stand?

    My homeland waits above,
    where my King rules in love,
    ever to reign.
    For that yet coming land,
    I take my fervent stand,
    and lend my mind and hand
    its shores to gain.

    Yet now I work and pray

    that there may come a day –
    soon may it be! –
    when through this burdened land
    Christ once again will stand
    reaching with nail-scarred hand
    to set men free.

  5. Joe Tessitore

    My Country used to be
    A land of liberty
    But not today.
    Battered and tempest tossed
    Safety at any cost
    Despite the freedoms lost
    This price I’ll pay.

    I am a horse’s ass
    I think this too shall pass
    I am a fool.
    And I will never learn
    All bridges they will burn
    There will be no return
    When tyrants rule.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      A fine poetic observation and so very true. Thank you for the challenge.

  6. Marieke Vos

    My country used to be one of butter mountains
    My country is now one that is ‘mostly flat’ according to google maps

    My buttery country was one of friendly neighbors
    It was one of helpfulness, silly clean sidewalks and a howdoyoudo for all passersby

    My country was one of free sailing and high flying adventure seekers

    Slowly we have been mislead to believe in an atheist future full of immoral monkeys
    In that we would be those monkeys
    And forget our golden past

    I dare say no
    I dare say we shall return to our over flowing milk buckets
    I dare say we shall return to our greenest meadows

    Will you wait for science to save you?
    Will you lay down and wait for the state to decide what to do now?

    Or will you unlearn the lies that made you helpless, hopeless, dependent and scared?

    You are one of us, one of those who sailed the Seven Seas
    And you can learn to hope again

    Why would I not repent and let past wrongs be gone?
    Why would I not be a better person?

    Will we be a strong people again
    Will we be free spirits again, devout, brave and kind?

  7. James A. Tweedie

    My country used to be a narrow place
    For those not of an Anglo/Scottish hue.
    A land where those not of a chosen race
    Were lynched or segregated out of view.
    Where “Yellow” was a designated peril,
    And “Red” uncivilized, a savage tribe.
    And Catholics, the bottom of the barrel—
    All drunks and mobsters, eager for a bribe.
    Yet still the wretched refuse of the poor
    And persecuted of the world still stand
    In hope of coming to my country’s shore,
    Their “city on a hill,” their “promised land.”
    Despite its flaws, America, it seems
    Is still a land of liberty . . . and dreams.

    • Martin Rizley

      Hi James,
      Your vision of America´s past has a lot of truth in it. There is no doubt that a number of injustices lie in our history– sins that can in no wise be justified– but I like the way you balance the negative with the positive, recognizing that, for all its faults, a land which in principle prizes liberty (even if this was not always the shared blessing of all) is still to be preferred over nations lying under the thrall of despotic regimes where God-given liberties and the rule of law are routinely trampled upon. I have some friends in one very troubled nation of Latin America whose dream is to immigrate to the United States some day, because of the promise of liberty and prosperity that it holds. So the U.S. still holds a strong attraction for people around the globe; but I fear it is living on the capital of a more principled past, and is therefore, on life support. Your poem reminds me of the words of Oliver Cromwell when someone wanted to paint his portrait– “I´ll let you do so, but you must paint me as I really am, warts and all!” We must do the same in describing America´s past. We must not blind ourselves to the warts. The problem with the cultural Marxists who dominate the universities and public schools today, however, is that they see nothing in America´s past but one giant wart, and do not value the principles of its founding.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, the closing couplet of this well crafted sonnet makes my heart sing.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Thank you Martin and Susan for affirming my poem. Martin, your final sentence is a cogent summary of the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in. It reminds me of the Chesterton parable about the English boy who longed to see one of the great hillside chalk carvings. He hated life on the farm where he was raised and finally abandoned home and family and ran away. As he came to the top of the hill opposite his family farm, he turned back for one final glance and saw that the farm was in, in fact, set in the middle of one of the chalk carvings, but he had been too close to it to see it. That is how I see America. Except the intelligencia that wants to abandon what we have for a mess of pottage is too arrogant to look back and see that we are already the land of opportunity, freedom, law, liberty and dreams. Maybe Mao was on to something. Instead of mandatory military service, all university and federal employees should be required to spend one year working on a farm or in a meat packing plant and experience some REAL real politik, rub shoulders with a different set of “real” people, and, as a bonus, celebrate true diversity while they’re at it!

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Martin, both you and James Tweedie are laboring under the massive delusion that America is founded on an intellectual proposition — namely, that “all men are created equal.” No nation is founded upon words, and those particular words are intellectually insane.

      • Martin Rizley

        Dr. Salemi,
        Nevertheless, they are the words of the founding fathers. I’m sure you would agree they were no intellectual lightweights, nor were they Marxists pursuing Utopian dreams of a classless society in which all difference between men have been eliminated. They certainly did not not mean to deny the natural inequalities that exist between men in terms of their strengths, endowments, gifts and opportunities, but rather their sole intention was to affirm the God-given equality of all men before the law, as the words that follow make plain– “and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. . .” Not only did they regard that as a “sane ” proposition; they were willing to fight a war against the King of England in its defense, as a later generation of Americans were willing to do in the right against Nazi fascism.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Three points: First, the Declaration of Independence is not a legal document, and carries no compulsory force in our republic. Second, that Declaration itself belies the comment about “all men being created equal,” when it very openly refers to the American Indians as bloodthirsty savages beyond the pale of civilization. Third, many if the signatories of the Declaration were slaveholders, and certainly did not consider their slaves as “equals.”

        It is an anachronistic misreading of the Declaration of Independence (but common among liberals) to think that its text is a support for later left-liberal ideologies. The term “men” referred to in the text simply means “all free-born Englishmen.”

  8. David Paul Behrens

    My country used to be
    A sweet land of liberty,
    But boy, did it change!

    A land where my father died,
    Serving this land with pride,
    Singing “Home on the Range.”

    Youngsters would walk to school,
    Following the golden rule,
    Now all that seems strange.

    We used to be sure about
    How most things would turn out,
    Leaders were not deranged.

    We need men like Eisenhower
    To acquire the reins of power,
    That remains unchanged.

    • David Paul Behrens

      I didn’t realize I was going to follow James Tweedie, which makes my poem somewhat of an anticlimax. There should be a period after the word “out” instead of a comma. (Which makes this comment an anticlimax.)

    • Joe Tessitore

      Thanks Sally!
      I pretty much recognized it when the line came to me.
      Mrs. T totally agreed, and Evan was on it in a flash.

  9. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    My country used to be…

    My country used to be content and free
    where liberty reigned over prying eye,
    where we could kiss and wish beneath a tree
    without the threat of “bend-the-rules-and-die”.

    We picnicked on the cliffs where swallows fly,
    then strolled the brackish beach and breathed the sea
    in surf-bliss, sun-blush rushes of sky-high –
    my country used to be content and free.

    We met, we ate, we chinked and sipped with glee.
    We toasted morrows over apple pie.
    Now yesterday’s a hazy memory
    where liberty reigned over prying eye.

    Now smiles are masked and no one hears the cry
    of howling hearts held under lock and key.
    All dreams drift back to days before goodbye
    where we could kiss and wish beneath a tree.

    The curve is flat yet still soothsayers see
    the Reaper’s glinting scythe and that is why
    they push the non-essentials’ destiny
    that holds the threat of “bend-the-rules-and-die!”.

    And here I sit in fear; I can’t deny
    each stage of this new plague has got to me
    through bilge and bile from tongues that twist and lie,
    and kill the land of hope’s prosperity
    my country used to be.

  10. Martin Rizley

    My country used to be
    An apple on a tree,
    So full and ripe and round-
    To all appearance, sound.
    But little did I know
    A worm inside did grow
    That slowly, day by day,
    Its sweet flesh ate away
    And gradually did bore
    A tunnel to its core.
    And so, destroyed within,
    By folly, pride, and sin,
    It sits– a sight grotesque–
    Upon a teacher’s desk
    In some sick, godless school,
    Where atheists now rule.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      An excellent and hard-hitting wake-up call of a poem, Martin. The apple conceit works perfectly.

  11. Svetlina Trifonova

    My country used to be
    a sacred place for many hours spent,
    under the nighty skies,
    under the sweet embrace,
    of Gods and priests,
    and mysteries of Love.
    My country used to be a tailored for a Heaven,
    a place where higher souls
    would meet and turn their hearts the gold.
    Now it is a different thing I see.
    Some are hungry for the profits, others wish to steal and bribe.
    The trees care not about the temporary glory.
    They care to live and breathe with all.
    Don’t worrу, I say.
    This Earth, this land will become clean again.
    The blessed feet that do not bow to hunger,
    will touch the soil,
    we will grow again.
    You ask what my country used to be.
    But this is the land of the Sun.
    Where we find warriors and people of the peace.
    The sacred place where you only come to know.
    Meet someone graceful, real and of peace…
    If you want to be one with the Sun.
    Now joyful souls, those spirit-free,
    unite in Love rather than the sickness of the earthly deeds.
    Blessed is this land and I know there’s something beautiful that’s meant to be.

    • Svetlina Trifonova

      My country used to be
      a sacred place for many hours spent
      under the nighty skies,
      under the sweet embrace
      of Gods and priests,
      and mysteries of Love.
      My country used to be tailored for a Heaven,
      a place where higher souls
      would meet and turn their hearts to gold.
      Now it is a different thing I see.
      Some are hungry for the profits,
      others wish to steal and bribe.
      The trees care not about that temporary glory.
      They care to live and breathe with all.
      Don’t worrу, I say.
      This Earth, this land will become clean again.
      The blessed feet that do not bow to hunger,
      will touch the soil, we will grow again.
      You ask what my country used to be.
      This is the land of the Sun.
      Where warriors meet people of peace.
      The sacred place where you only come to become one.
      One with the Sun.
      One with joyful souls, those spirit-free.
      In Love rather than the so-called earthly deeds.
      Blessed is this land and I know there’s
      something beautiful that’s meant to be.

  12. Mia

    Have really enjoyed reading all the poems and comments
    Had to have a go another great prompt
    so thank you and best wishes to all in these difficult times

    My country used to be
    A land where men gave their word
    Shook hands and it was done,
    Tipped their hats when a lady walked past

    My country used to have
    Sweet pine-scented breezes
    Windows opened wide,
    Unlocked doors
    Rocking chairs swaying on the porch

    My country used to hear
    Bells chiming on a Sunday morning
    The sound of hymns echoing across hills
    Was it real? Or a childhood dream,
    A Hollywood screen of twinkling stars
    That ignored the stripes of violence and strife
    In the land of the brave and the free.

  13. C.B. Anderson

    My country used to be a haven
    For persons longing for a way
    To earn success, but now the craven
    Incompetents have had their day.
    The patriots, so long ago,
    Who kept the British running
    Have been replaced by pallid dough —
    The differences are stunning.

  14. Educated American

    My country used to be
    founded by integrity,
    founded for democracy.
    Now my country wants to be
    headed by conspiracy,
    headed for insanity.

  15. Simone

    Hello. I just stumbled across this website and was immediately inspired. Thank you! I’m not sure if it’s too late to contribute and I’m still a novice on my poetry journey… But here goes:

    My country used to be hungry
    invaders forged their inventory
    in soil once tillaged by locals
    with proud and indignant vocals.
    Yet times of threat from pandemic
    developed trust now systemic.
    Response celebrated with pride
    for greed and commerce aside.
    Protecting public livelihood first
    evades tragic fears for the worst.
    No panic buying witnessed here
    as citizens ate without fear.

    Can you guess which country I am in?

  16. Summer Else

    My country used to be
    a dirt road and fields
    a tire swing and fears
    scraped knees and tears.

    My country used to be
    new schools and new places
    new faces and chases
    rocky roads
    and potholes
    alone in big spaces.

    My country used to be
    someone loved me
    falling and floating
    untethered and free
    drifting and drowning
    surrounded by sea.

    My country used to be
    cutting the chains
    clawing and scratching
    impossible gains
    building, breaking
    and numbing the pain.

    My country used to be
    running away
    running and falling
    nowhere to stay
    nighttime and dreaming
    hoping for day.

    My country used to be
    a concrete path
    daisies and dandelions
    sprouting through cracks
    breaking and entering
    all the way back.

    My country used to be
    waving goodbye
    a full gas tank
    life passing by
    not wanting to wake up
    not wanting to try.

    My county used to be
    a place that I fled
    scanning horizons
    alive among dead
    I’m seeking my country
    somewhere ahead.

    My country used to be
    wandering aimlessly
    words, syllables, silliness
    and free.


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