This poem surfaced during the run-up to the last election, but I think it may work as an Independence Day poem, too.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
The clown car careens into the bright-lit
center ring, buzzing like a baby chainsaw.
Smoke corkscrews from the tiny tailpipe,
the horn bleats and squalls. Now it brakes,
fishtails, skids sideways and heaves to a halt,
rocking on lackadaisical springs. The motor
pops and sputters, the tinted glass doors
stay shut. The audience leans forward.
Nothing happens—only spotlight beams
sweeping over, away and back. And soon,
frustration crackles in the bleachers. Gripes,
scattered curses, threats. Nothing happens!
Inside the car’s a motley gaggle of eager
Armageddonites, ex-CIA think tankers,
talk radio megastars, flaks for Big Oil—
all playing rock, paper, scissors. The victor
gets to clamber out and take first crack
at deceiving the crowd. Oh, how abashed
they’d be to find the Big Top almost empty!
Just a few gloomy diehards left, their eyes
and nostrils stung raw by exhaust, lungs
too choked for cheers. Imagine the rest
headed home: toddlers riding their parents’
shoulders, the older kids kicking leaves,
all gazing up past bare birch branches
into the red-shifting heart of inexhaustible
openness, the profusion of its forms, feeling
small and glad in the star-spangled night.