from T H E G R E A T A M E R I C A N C H O R U S

Like a hoax
Dante, into its depths
dusk
oil
fog

like something moving forever and without progress
like the road itself
pale flags

like a street-corner zealot
red lit signs
Cassandra-like and humorless

a person who has received a stunning blow
leaves upon this shepherd’s head

what things would be like
a single staircase
a tightening net
like Ss
wheat
grease or sweat
like a perfect—I don’t know what
something underwater
loops of an underpass
or treading the top of a wall

like something that had happened elsewhere
never like
nothing like
this:

E A C H W O R D I W A S

meaning to say
swallow-tailed triangular flags
I did not want
& did not want
bleached into surrender 

The language in The Great American Chorus appears in the first chapters of books that have been characterized as “Great American Novels.” This excerpt includes language from The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, Underworld by Don Delillo, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Absalom! Absalom! And Light in August by William Faulkner, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, American Pastoral by Philip Roth, Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Rabbit, Run by John Updike, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Allyson Paty's poems can be found in Boston ReviewThe Brooklyn RailjubilatKenyon Review OnlineThe Literary ReviewTin House, the PEN Poetry Series, and elsewhere. She was a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Poetry and a 2017-2018 participant in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Workspace program. With Norah Maki, she is co-founding editor of Singing Saw Press. She is Assistant Director of the Writing Program at NYU Gallatin, where she runs Confluence, a platform for student writing, art, and research, and she teaches with NYU's Prison Education Program, where her students have published Broken Silence (2017) and VOICE (2018).