Friday, September 9, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: Two Poems about Pledges

By Elizabeth Powell

Republic, your cool hands
On my schoolgirl shoulders.
Not sure what allegiances meant
Until the vows were held by heart,
By memory, by rote, by benign betrothal.
Republic, you were mine, I knew
Because of Mother’s religious pamphlets:
Lindsay for Mayor.
McGovern for President.
How to Register Voters.
I didn’t ever want to go to school
On Saturdays. The baby-sitter said
If Nixon won, I’d have to go…

Click here to read the rest of the poem.


by Jacqueline Woodson

When the kids in my class ask why
I am not allowed to pledge to the flag
I tell them It's against my religion but don't say,
I am in the world but not of the world. This,
they would not understand.
Even though my mother's not a Jehovah's Witness,
she makes us follow their rules and
leave the classroom when the pledge is being said.

Every morning, I walk out with Gina and Alina
the two other Witnesses in my class.
Sometimes, Gina says,
Maybe we should pray for the kids inside
who don't know that God said
"No other idols before me." That our God
is a jealous God.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.


A little history about the Pledge of Allegiance (

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth's Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country.
In its original form it read:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1923, the words, "the Flag of the United States of America" were added. At this time it read:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words "under God," creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy's daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


Amy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm.


Tabatha said...

That jealous God and his watchful eye, Gina. The babysitter who says Nixon will make them go to school on Saturdays. Everyone is full of expectations as to what the future will bring. Hard to get on the same page! Thanks, Elaine.

jama said...

Lots of food for thought in these poems -- very timely as we've all been forced to re-examine what "patriotism" really means.

Mary Lee said...

Food for thought. Perfect choices.

mbhmaine said...

Thanks for both of these poems and the information on the evolution of the pledge. Interesting perspectives!

Ruth said...

"I am strangely..." Yep.

Unknown said...

So many things meant to unify actually divide instead. It's a sadness for the human race that we always pause on the differences.

Amy LV said...

Lots to think about here. Thank you. We are born where we happen to born....but humans all. May we be kind. xx

Charles Waters said...

So glad you posted these two poems. Lots of poetic food for thought.