I have traveled the pitted miles of melting asphalt
overlaid on rows of peeling houses with cardboard windows;
adorned with grandmothers in white gowns and pink slippers
rocking in rusting metal chairs, as if waiting.
I have warmed my bare feet on their fraying braided rings of ancient rugs
stretched across cold wooden floors of their parlors;
the smell of rubbing alcohol loitering in the room.

I have seen the youths of these cross-patched neighborhoods
riding on the amber waves of their veins,
their pain rising with the tide of the needle in their skin;
their faces turning red, then white, then blue.

I have seen that early light of dawn etched on the shadows of alleys
hidden by a carefree moon,
transforming the glittering neon streets
into dingy avenues of stacked cases of half-empty beers dripping on the walk
onto the cardboard forms snoring in the subway stairs.

I have slept in the doorways of the finest of establishments,
my face against etched glass and the disapproving glance of the night watchman;
my hands and feet wrapped in gray cloth discarded at the Goodwill drop;
my blanket yesterdays NASDAQ quotes neatly layered
over my sweat-soured pants and shirt.

I have sat in the puddles of the colonias
waiting on the open pit to rise in flame
as papa skewers the tire- scarred skinless carcass of an old jackrabbit
too slow to cross the road;
while my sister feasts on the green mud soaking our skin.

I have stood on Telegraph Tower, breathless from the climb
as black limousines pull into the circle to watch the red dusk,
my skin tight on my failing frame;
avoiding the glances of the plush children emerging from the cars
pointing at the skinny man with the sores on his face.

I have watched the ramparts of the Galveston Sea Wall
while hauling in a net of stinging shrimp,
my skin fouled with the smell of dead life,
staring at the young girls in pink and red thongs
lying prone on unfolded chairs, charring their skin.

I have seen the red glare in Fallujah
angry voices casting stones
at a burning Humvee
the spoils of victory
the tarnish of success

I have seen the burnt stalks in dry rows
being pulled by men with dirty dripping brows,
the skin on their hands broken and torn from the fine edges
of the crackling, crumbling leaves;
their stomachs aching from the fear of the coming winter.

I have seen the homes of the brave men,
crumpled in wheeled-chairs, their medals pinned to their shirts,
as their wavering hands lightly touch their faces in salute
to the raising of the morning flag;
their raspy voices restating their pledge.

I have seen the land of the free men;
their spangled flag draped over them,
as blackened widows stagger to their boxes
laying down one last rose
before the silver platform of belts and wheels
affixes them to the earth.

David E. Cowen
Copyright 2013
All Rights Reserved

Author: David E. Cowen

David E. Cowen is a native of Brownsville, Texas who now lives in Houston. Besides being a trial attorney by trade David is a published poet and author of a volume of poetry entitled Sixth and Adams (2001). His poems have been published in various hard copy and online journals for the past many years including those published by George Mason University, Stephen F. Austin University, Sam Houston State University and many privately published journals as well. His poetry was featured in the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Radio radio journal “Outfront” in a 2005 tribute on 9/11. This April, Thisibelieve.org published an essay of his in its collection “On Motherhood” currently available in bookstores. Also, three short scholarly articles on the subject of zombie films written by David will appear in June Pulliam’s “The Encyclopedia of the Zombie: The Walking Dead in Popular Culture and Myth” to be published later this year by ABC CLIO publishing. Earlier this year CineAction Magazine, Canada’s leading film journal, published my essay review of Danel Olson’s The Exorcist: Studies in the Horror Film published earlier this year, also by Centipede Press. PS Press will be including a short story by Cowen, “The Goth Thing”, in its 5th Volume of its acclaimed Exotic Gothic series scheduled to be published in 2013. David E. Cowen is the Vice President of the Gulf Coast Poetry Association as well as a member of the World Fantasy Conference, Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

His most recent poetry publications include poems placed in “Dark Portal” (UH Downtown) and Harbinger Asylum.


Thisibelieve.org published an essay of David’s in its 2012 collection “On Motherhood” currently available in bookstores. In 2012 CineAction Magazine, Canada’s leading film journal, published David’s essay review of Danel Olson’s The Exorcist: Studies in the Horror Film (2012 Centipede Press). Three short scholarly articles on the subject of zombie films written by David will appear in June Pulliam’s The Encyclopedia of the Zombie: The Walking Dead in Popular Culture and Myth to be published in June of 2014 by Greenwood publishing. David has a number of fiction and analytical projects in the works. His short story, “Goth Thing,” adapted from his unpublished novel “The Goth Sabbatical”, has just appeared in the Exotic Gothic 5, Volume 1 published by PS Publishing. The Exotic Gothic series, edited by Danel Olson, has been the past recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Conference Award. David is an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association, a member and attendee of the World Fantasy Conference, the Austin International Poetry Festival, the Houston Poetry Festival as well as a lifetime member of the Gulf Coast Poetry Society. His novelette about civil rights in a zombie apocalypse entitled “the zombie appeal” will be published in Breaking Fate Publications Anthology The Dead Walking set to appear in January of 2014.

“Goth Thing, Exotic Gothic 5 (P.S. Publishing, UK; Olson ed. 2013) can be found at www.pspublishing.co.uk.
“Hope Dished Out in Plenty,” This I Believe On Motherhood (Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint; Geidman, ed., 2012) can be found at www.amazon.com

Review, The Exorcist STUDIES IN THE HORROR FILM, Cineaction Magazine ((Cineaction 86 2012) can be found at: http://cineaction.ca

“The Cycle,” Peripheral Distortions(King, ed., Death Throes Publishing, 2014) available at www.amazon.ca/

Pulliam and Fonseca, ed., Encyclopedia of the Zombie: The Walking Dead in Popular Culture and Myth (Greenwood May 31, 2014) (contributed three articles on Asian Zombie Films, Night of the Comet and Bruce Williams) can be found at www.amazon.com

“the zombie appeal,” The Dead Walking (Anthology) (Breaking Fate Press March 2014) (novelette)


3 Responses to American Anthem

  1. Eugene "Gene" Novogrodsky says:

    …this guy can write – maybe the BEST on Writers Of the Rio Grande since its start! Powerful, very powerful ….Come read at Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Writers Forum on a First Tuesday in San Benito, or call some of its members and share around a table; too, Narciso has Authors Night, April 13th, a possible slot ….Again, NEVER a wasted word from David Cowen ….The above is frought with US contradictions – such writing is needed MORE now than ever, as various social economic gulfs grow ….

  2. David E. Cowen says:

    Thank you so much. You are too gracious. FYI. The photo is also mine. The eagle was from a traveling presentation of injured birds of prey that was trying to highlight their services. The eagle was found half dead and could not longer take flight. They sat the bird on a perch in front of the flag. I thought it went with the poem.


  3. Walter Birdwell says:

    A fitting anthem for America. Powerful imagery.

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