With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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Every morning the public school chooses a student to lead us in patriotic worship over the intercom. I stand before my classroom flag and count my heartbeats. At recess I draw stars and stars. We are one nation under God. I crayon within the lines. When the school announces the annual poetry contest, I write a poem for the republic for which the flag stands. Last year I wrote a poem about the country that my mama calls back home. I did not win. This year I know better. My poem is chosen. The local paper prints my name on the front page. The teacher makes me line leader. In the gymnasium the entire school sits and sweats in neat rows. The assembly is televised on the local channel, and we wave to the camera. We sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” We sing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” When it is my turn to stand, I smooth my red dress. The title of my poem is “We Are as Free as the Wind.” I am ten. I recite my lines. I believe them.