Langston Hughes |
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free.
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!
Walt Whitman |
WHOEVER you are, I fear you are walking the walks of dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your feet and hands;
Even now, your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners, troubles, follies, costume,
crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true Soul and Body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs—out of commerce, shops, law, science, work, forms,
clothes, the house, medicine, print, buying, selling, eating, drinking, suffering, dying.
Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem;
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.
O I have been dilatory and dumb;
I should have made my way straight to you long ago;
I should have blabb’d nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but you.
I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of you;
None have understood you, but I understand you;
None have done justice to you—you have not done justice to yourself;
None but have found you imperfect—I only find no imperfection in you;
None but would subordinate you—I only am he who will never consent to subordinate
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better, God, beyond what waits
Painters have painted their swarming groups, and the centre figure of all;
From the head of the centre figure spreading a nimbus of gold-color’d light;
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its nimbus of gold-color’d
From my hand, from the brain of every man and woman it streams, effulgently flowing
O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are—you have slumber’d upon yourself all your life;
Your eye-lids have been the same as closed most of the time;
What you have done returns already in mockeries;
(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in mockeries, what is their
The mockeries are not you;
Underneath them, and within them, I see you lurk;
I pursue you where none else has pursued you;
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom’d routine, if
conceal you from others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you from me;
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if these balk others, they do
The pert apparel, the deform’d attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature death, all
There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you;
There is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as good is in you;
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you;
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.
As for me, I give nothing to any one, except I give the like carefully to you;
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than I sing the songs of the glory
Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tame, compared to you;
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers—you are immense and interminable
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution—you
he or she who is master or mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution.
The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an unfailing sufficiency;
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever you are promulges
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted;
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.
Ezra Pound |
(From the early Anglo-Saxon text)
May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft.
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care's hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head
While she tossed close to cliffs.
My feet were by frost benumbed.
Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
Hew my heart round and hunger begot
Lest man know not
That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea,
Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
Deprived of my kinsmen;
Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew,
There I heard naught save the harsh sea
And ice-cold wave, at whiles the swan cries,
Did for my games the gannet's clamour,
Sea-fowls, loudness was for me laughter,
The mews' singing all my mead-drink.
Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the stern
In icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamed
With spray on his pinion.
Not any protector
May make merry man faring needy.
This he little believes, who aye in winsome life
Abides 'mid burghers some heavy business,
Wealthy and wine-flushed, how I weary oft
Must bide above brine.
Neareth nightshade, snoweth from north,
Frost froze the land, hail fell on earth then
Corn of the coldest.
Nathless there knocketh now
The heart's thought that I on high streams
The salt-wavy tumult traverse alone.
Moaneth alway my mind's lust
That I fare forth, that I afar hence
Seek out a foreign fastness.
For this there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst,
Not though he be given his good, but will have in his youth greed;
Nor his deed to the daring, nor his king to the faithful
But shall have his sorrow for sea-fare
Whatever his lord will.
He hath not heart for harping, nor in ring-having
Nor winsomeness to wife, nor world's delight
Nor any whit else save the wave's slash,
Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water.
Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries,
Fields to fairness, land fares brisker,
All this admonisheth man eager of mood,
The heart turns to travel so that he then thinks
On flood-ways to be far departing.
Cuckoo calleth with gloomy crying,
He singeth summerward, bodeth sorrow,
The bitter heart's blood.
Burgher knows not --
He the prosperous man -- what some perform
Where wandering them widest draweth.
So that but now my heart burst from my breast-lock,
My mood 'mid the mere-flood,
Over the whale's acre, would wander wide.
On earth's shelter cometh oft to me,
Eager and ready, the crying lone-flyer,
Whets for the whale-path the heart irresistibly,
O'er tracks of ocean; seeing that anyhow
My lord deems to me this dead life
On loan and on land, I believe not
That any earth-weal eternal standeth
Save there be somewhat calamitous
That, ere a man's tide go, turn it to twain.
Disease or oldness or sword-hate
Beats out the breath from doom-gripped body.
And for this, every earl whatever, for those speaking after --
Laud of the living, boasteth some last word,
That he will work ere he pass onward,
Frame on the fair earth 'gainst foes his malice,
Daring ado, .
So that all men shall honour him after
And his laud beyond them remain 'mid the English,
Aye, for ever, a lasting life's-blast,
Delight mid the doughty.
Days little durable,
And all arrogance of earthen riches,
There come now no kings nor Cæsars
Nor gold-giving lords like those gone.
Howe'er in mirth most magnified,
Whoe'er lived in life most lordliest,
Drear all this excellence, delights undurable!
Waneth the watch, but the world holdeth.
Tomb hideth trouble.
The blade is layed low.
Earthly glory ageth and seareth.
No man at all going the earth's gait,
But age fares against him, his face paleth,
Grey-haired he groaneth, knows gone companions,
Lordly men are to earth o'ergiven,
Nor may he then the flesh-cover, whose life ceaseth,
Nor eat the sweet nor feel the sorry,
Nor stir hand nor think in mid heart,
And though he strew the grave with gold,
His born brothers, their buried bodies
Be an unlikely treasure hoard.
Kahlil Gibran |
The power of charity sows deep in my heart, and I reap and gather the wheat in bundles and give them to the hungry.
My soul gives life to the grapevine and I press its bunches and give the juice to the thirsty.
Heaven fills my lamp with oil and I place it at my window to direct the stranger through the dark.
I do all these things because I live in them; and if destiny should tie my hands and prevent me from so doing, then death would be my only desire.
For I am a poet, and if I cannot give, I shall refuse to receive.
Humanity rages like a tempest, but I sigh in silence for I know the storm must pass away while a sigh goes to God.
Human kinds cling to earthly things, but I seek ever to embrace the torch of love so it will purify me by its fire and sear inhumanity from my heart.
Substantial things deaden a man without suffering; love awakens him with enlivening pains.
Humans are divided into different clans and tribes, and belong to countries and towns.
But I find myself a stranger to all communities and belong to no settlement.
The universe is my country and the human family is my tribe.
Men are weak, and it is sad that they divide amongst themselves.
The world is narrow and it is unwise to cleave it into kingdoms, empires, and provinces.
Human kinds unite themselves one to destroy the temples of the soul, and they join hands to build edifices for earthly bodies.
I stand alone listening to the voice of hope in my deep self saying, "As love enlivens a man's heart with pain, so ignorance teaches him the way of knowledge.
" Pain and ignorance lead to great joy and knowledge because the Supreme Being has created nothing vain under the sun.
I have a yearning for my beautiful country, and I love its people because of their misery.
But if my people rose, stimulated by plunder and motivated by what they call "patriotic spirit" to murder, and invaded my neighbor's country, then upon the committing of any human atrocity I would hate my people and my country.
I sing the praise of my birthplace and long to see the home of my children; but if the people in that home refused to shelter and feed the needy wayfarer, I would convert my praise into anger and my longing to forgetfulness.
My inner voice would say, "The house that does not comfort the need is worthy of naught by destruction.
I love my native village with some of my love for my country; and I love my country with part of my love for the earth, all of which is my country; and I love the earth will all of myself because it is the haven of humanity, the manifest spirit of God.
Humanity is the spirit of the Supreme Being on earth, and that humanity is standing amidst ruins, hiding its nakedness behind tattered rags, shedding tears upon hollow cheeks, and calling for its children with pitiful voice.
But the children are busy singing their clan's anthem; they are busy sharpening the swords and cannot hear the cry of their mothers.
Humanity appeals to its people but they listen not.
Were one to listen, and console a mother by wiping her tears, other would say, "He is weak, affected by sentiment.
Humanity is the spirit of the Supreme Being on earth, and that Supreme Being preaches love and good-will.
But the people ridicule such teachings.
The Nazarene Jesus listened, and crucifixion was his lot; Socrates heard the voice and followed it, and he too fell victim in body.
The followers of The Nazarene and Socrates are the followers of Deity, and since people will not kill them, they deride them, saying, "Ridicule is more bitter than killing.
Jerusalem could not kill The Nazarene, nor Athens Socrates; they are living yet and shall live eternally.
Ridicule cannot triumph over the followers of Deity.
They live and grow forever.
Thou art my brother because you are a human, and we both are sons of one Holy Spirit; we are equal and made of the same earth.
You are here as my companion along the path of life, and my aid in understanding the meaning of hidden Truth.
You are a human, and, that fact sufficing, I love you as a brother.
You may speak of me as you choose, for Tomorrow shall take you away and will use your talk as evidence for his judgment, and you shall receive justice.
You may deprive me of whatever I possess, for my greed instigated the amassing of wealth and you are entitled to my lot if it will satisfy you.
You may do unto me whatever you wish, but you shall not be able to touch my Truth.
You may shed my blood and burn my body, but you cannot kill or hurt my spirit.
You may tie my hands with chains and my feet with shackles, and put me in the dark prison, but who shall not enslave my thinking, for it is free, like the breeze in the spacious sky.
You are my brother and I love you.
I love you worshipping in your church, kneeling in your temple, and praying in your mosque.
You and I and all are children of one religion, for the varied paths of religion are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being, extended to all, offering completeness of spirit to all, anxious to receive all.
I love you for your Truth, derived from your knowledge; that Truth which I cannot see because of my ignorance.
But I respect it as a divine thing, for it is the deed of the spirit.
Your Truth shall meet my Truth in the coming world and blend together like the fragrance of flowers and becoming one whole and eternal Truth, perpetuating and living in the eternity of Love and Beauty.
I love you because you are weak before the strong oppressor, and poor before the greedy rich.
For these reasons I shed tears and comfort you; and from behind my tears I see you embraced in the arms of Justice, smiling and forgiving your persecutors.
You are my brother and I love you.
You are my brother, but why are you quarreling with me? Why do you invade my country and try to subjugate me for the sake of pleasing those who are seeking glory and authority?
Why do you leave your wife and children and follow Death to the distant land for the sake of those who buy glory with your blood, and high honor with your mother's tears?
Is it an honor for a man to kill his brother man? If you deem it an honor, let it be an act of worship, and erect a temple to Cain who slew his brother Abel.
Is self-preservation the first law of Nature? Why, then, does Greed urge you to self-sacrifice in order only to achieve his aim in hurting your brothers? Beware, my brother, of the leader who says, "Love of existence obliges us to deprive the people of their rights!" I say unto you but this: protecting others' rights is the noblest and most beautiful human act; if my existence requires that I kill others, then death is more honorable to me, and if I cannot find someone to kill me for the protection of my honor, I will not hesitate to take my life by my own hands for the sake of Eternity before Eternity comes.
Selfishness, my brother, is the cause of blind superiority, and superiority creates clanship, and clanship creates authority which leads to discord and subjugation.
The soul believes in the power of knowledge and justice over dark ignorance; it denies the authority that supplies the swords to defend and strengthen ignorance and oppression - that authority which destroyed Babylon and shook the foundation of Jerusalem and left Rome in ruins.
It is that which made people call criminals great mean; made writers respect their names; made historians relate the stories of their inhumanity in manner of praise.
The only authority I obey is the knowledge of guarding and acquiescing in the Natural Law of Justice.
What justice does authority display when it kills the killer? When it imprisons the robber? When it descends on a neighborhood country and slays its people? What does justice think of the authority under which a killer punishes the one who kills, and a thief sentences the one who steals?
You are my brother, and I love you; and Love is justice with its full intensity and dignity.
If justice did not support my love for you, regardless of your tribe and community, I would be a deceiver concealing the ugliness of selfishness behind the outer garment of pure love.
My soul is my friend who consoles me in misery and distress of life.
He who does not befriend his soul is an enemy of humanity, and he who does not find human guidance within himself will perish desperately.
Life emerges from within, and derives not from environs.
I came to say a word and I shall say it now.
But if death prevents its uttering, it will be said tomorrow, for tomorrow never leaves a secret in the book of eternity.
I came to live in the glory of love and the light of beauty, which are the reflections of God.
I am here living, and the people are unable to exile me from the domain of life for they know I will live in death.
If they pluck my eyes I will hearken to the murmers of love and the songs of beauty.
If they close my ears I will enjoy the touch of the breeze mixed with the incebse of love and the fragrance of beauty.
If they place me in a vacuum, I will live together with my soul, the child of love and beauty.
I came here to be for all and with all, and what I do today in my solitude will be echoed by tomorrow to the people.
What I say now with one heart will be said tomorrow by many hearts
Walt Whitman |
(The war is completed—the price is paid—the title is settled beyond recall;)
Let every one answer! let those who sleep be waked! let none evade!
Must we still go on with our affectations and sneaking?
Let me bring this to a close—I pronounce openly for a new distribution of roles;
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let that which was behind advance to the
Let murderers, bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turn’d inside out! let meanings be freely criminal, as well
Let there be no suggestion above the suggestion of drudgery!
Let none be pointed toward his destination! (Say! do you know your destination?)
Let men and women be mock’d with bodies and mock’d with Souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! let it die, or pass stillborn to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait! or let it also pass, a dwarf, to other
Let contradictions prevail! let one thing contradict another! and let one line of my poems
Let the people sprawl with yearning, aimless hands! let their tongues be broken! let their
be discouraged! let none descend into their hearts with the fresh lusciousness of love!
(Stifled, O days! O lands! in every public and private corruption!
Smother’d in thievery, impotence, shamelessness, mountain-high;
Brazen effrontery, scheming, rolling like ocean’s waves around and upon you, O my
For not even those thunderstorms, nor fiercest lightnings of the war, have purified the
—Let the theory of America still be management, caste, comparison! (Say! what other
Let them that distrust birth and death still lead the rest! (Say! why shall they not lead
Let the crust of hell be neared and trod on! let the days be darker than the nights! let
slumber bring less slumber than waking time brings!
Let the world never appear to him or her for whom it was all made!
Let the heart of the young man still exile itself from the heart of the old man! and let
heart of the old man be exiled from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! let scenery take the applause of the audience! let there be
under the stars!
Let freedom prove no man’s inalienable right! every one who can tyrannize, let him
tyrannize to his satisfaction!
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery, sarcasm, hate, greed, indecency, impotence, lust,
taken for granted above all! let writers, judges, governments, households, religions,
philosophies, take such for granted above all!
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst women!
Let the priest still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain but the ashes of teachers, artists, moralists, lawyers, and
Let him who is without my poems be assassinated!
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee—let the mudfish, the lobster, the
mussel, eel, the sting-ray, and the grunting pig-fish—let these, and the like of
put on a perfect equality with man and woman!
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and the corpses of those who have died of the
filthy of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for none but fools!
Let men among themselves talk and think forever obscenely of women! and let women among
themselves talk and think obscenely of men!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in public, naked, monthly, at the peril of our
lives! let our bodies be freely handled and examined by whoever chooses!
Let nothing but copies at second hand be permitted to exist upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever henceforth be mention’d the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, imports, exports, custom, authority, precedents, pallor,
dyspepsia, smut, ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! let the prison-keepers be put in prison! let those
were prisoners take the keys! Say! why might they not just as well be transposed?)
Let the slaves be masters! let the masters become slaves!
Let the reformers descend from the stands where they are forever bawling! let an idiot or
insane person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the American, and the Australian, go armed
the murderous stealthiness of each other! let them sleep armed! let none believe in good
Let there be no unfashionable wisdom! let such be scorn’d and derided off from the
Let a floating cloud in the sky—let a wave of the sea—let growing mint, spinach,
onions, tomatoes—let these be exhibited as shows, at a great price for admission!
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a few smouchers! let the few seize on what
choose! let the rest gawk, giggle, starve, obey!
Let shadows be furnish’d with genitals! let substances be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be wealthy and immense cities—but still through any of them, not a single
savior, knower, lover!
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith away!
If one man be found who has faith, let the rest set upon him!
Let them affright faith! let them destroy the power of breeding faith!
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent! let them dance on, while seeming lasts!
seeming! seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! let them still teach only what they have been taught!
Let insanity still have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers, clouds!
Let the daub’d portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after itself!
Let it take steps after eunuchs, and after consumptive and genteel persons!
Let the white person again tread the black person under his heel! (Say! which is trodden
heel, after all?)
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied in mirrors! let the things
still continue unstudied!
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself!
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself!
(What real happiness have you had one single hour through your whole life?)
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the limitless years of death! (What do you
death will do, then?)
Marge Piercy |
Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother's forgotten breasts.
Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I'll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.
You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?
Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes.
I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.
Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail.
Love speaks me entire, a word
I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.
Leonard Cohen |
It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that it ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.
It's coming through a crack in the wall,
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.
It's coming from the sorrow on the street
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of G-d in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.
Sail on, sail on
o mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
past the Reefs of Greed
through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on
It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.
It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
that the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming to the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.
Sail on, sail on
o mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
past the Reefs of Greed
through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on
I'm sentimental if you know what I mean:
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.
Robert Hayden |
Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,
sharks following the moans the fever and the dying;
horror the corposant and compass rose.
voyage through death
to life upon these shores.
"10 April 1800--
Our linguist says
their moaning is a prayer for death,
our and their own.
Some try to starve themselves.
Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter
to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home
black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies, of his bones
New England pews are made, those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus Saviour Pilot Me
Over Life's Tempestuous Sea
We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,
safe passage to our vessels bringing
heathen souls unto Thy chastening.
I cannot sleep, for I am sick
with fear, but writing eases fear a little
since still my eyes can see these words take shape
upon the page & so I write, as one
would turn to exorcism.
4 days scudding,
but now the sea is calm again.
follows in our wake like sharks (our grinning
Which one of us
has killed an albatross? A plague among
our blacks--Ophthalmia: blindness--& we
have jettisoned the blind to no avail.
It spreads, the terrifying sickness spreads.
Its claws have scratched sight from the Capt.
& there is blindness in the fo'c'sle
& we must sail 3 weeks before we come
What port awaits us, Davy Jones' or home? I've
heard of slavers drifting, drifting, playthings of wind and storm and
chance, their crews gone blind, the jungle hatred crawling
up on deck.
Thou Who Walked On Galilee
"Deponent further sayeth The Bella J
left the Guinea Coast
with cargo of five hundred blacks and odd
for the barracoons of Florida:
"That there was hardly room 'tween-decks for half
the sweltering cattle stowed spoon-fashion there;
that some went mad of thirst and tore their flesh
and sucked the blood:
"That Crew and Captain lusted with the comeliest
of the savage girls kept naked in the cabins;
that there was one they called The Guinea Rose
and they cast lots and fought to lie with her:
"That when the Bo's'n piped all hands, the flames
spreading from starboard already were beyond
control, the negroes howling and their chains
entangled with the flames:
"That the burning blacks could not be reached,
that the Crew abandoned ship,
leaving their shrieking negresses behind,
that the Captain perished drunken with the wenches:
"Further Deponent sayeth not.
Pilot Oh Pilot Me
Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,
Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;
have watched the artful mongos baiting traps
of war wherein the victor and the vanquished
Were caught as prizes for our barracoons.
Have seen the ****** kings whose vanity
and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,
Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.
And there was one--King Anthracite we named him--
fetish face beneath French parasols
of brass and orange velvet, impudent mouth
whose cups were carven skulls of enemies:
He'd honor us with drum and feast and conjo
and palm-oil-glistening wenches deft in love,
and for tin crowns that shone with paste,
red calico and German-silver trinkets
Would have the drums talk war and send
his warriors to burn the sleeping villages
and kill the sick and old and lead the young
in coffles to our factories.
Twenty years a trader, twenty years,
for there was wealth aplenty to be harvested
from those black fields, and I'd be trading still
but for the fevers melting down my bones.
Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,
the dark ships move, the dark ships move,
their bright ironical names
like jests of kindness on a murderer's mouth;
plough through thrashing glister toward
fata morgana's lucent melting shore,
weave toward New World littorals that are
mirage and myth and actual shore.
Voyage through death,
voyage whose chartings are unlove.
A charnel stench, effluvium of living death
spreads outward from the hold,
where the living and the dead, the horribly dying,
lie interlocked, lie foul with blood and excrement.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies, the corpse of mercy
rots with him, rats eat love's rotten gelid eyes.
But, oh, the
living look at you with human eyes whose suffering accuses you, whose
hatred reaches through the swill of dark to strike you like a leper's
You cannot stare that hatred down or chain the fear that stalks
the watches and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath; cannot
kill the deep immortal human wish, the timeless will.
"But for the storm that flung up barriers
of wind and wave, The Amistad, señores,
would have reached the port of Príncipe in two,
three days at most; but for the storm we should
have been prepared for what befell.
Swift as a puma's leap it came.
that interval of moonless calm filled only
with the water's and the rigging's usual sounds,
then sudden movement, blows and snarling cries
and they had fallen on us with machete
It was as though the very
air, the night itself were striking us.
Exhausted by the rigors of the storm,
we were no match for them.
Our men went down
before the murderous Africans.
Celestino ran from below with gun
and lantern and I saw, before the cane-
knife's wounding flash, Cinquez,
that surly brute who calls himself a prince,
directing, urging on the ghastly work.
He hacked the poor mulatto down, and then
he turned on me.
The decks were slippery
when daylight finally came.
It sickens me
to think of what I saw, of how these apes
threw overboard the butchered bodies of
our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsam.
The rest is quickly told:
Cinquez was forced to spare the two of us
you see to steer the ship to Africa,
and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea
voyaged east by day and west by night,
deceiving them, hoping for rescue,
prisoners on our own vessel, till
at length we drifted to the shores of this
your land, America, where we were freed
from our unspeakable misery.
demand, good sirs, the extradition of
Cinquez and his accomplices to La
And it distresses us to know
there are so many here who seem inclined
to justify the mutiny of these blacks.
We find it paradoxical indeed
that you whose wealth, whose tree of liberty
are rooted in the labor of your slaves
should suffer the august John Quincey Adams
to speak with so much passion of the right
of chattel slaves to kill their lawful masters
and with his Roman rhetoric weave a hero's
garland for Cinquez.
I tell you that
we are determined to return to Cuba
with our slaves and there see justice done.
or let us say 'the Prince'--Cinquez shall die.
The deep immortal human wish,
the timeless will:
Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,
life that transfigures many lives.
Voyage through death
to life upon these shores.
Michael Ondaatje |
All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
--all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.
When I thought of daughters
I wasn't expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say 'like'
I mean of course 'love'
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.
One day I'll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it.
For if you close your ears
only nothing happens.
You will never change.
I don't care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories.
don't be fooled by anyone but yourself.
This is the first lecture I've given you.
You're 'sweet sixteen' you said.
I'd rather be your closest friend
than your father.
I'm not good at advice
you know that, but ride
until they grow dark.
Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with loss
--but that is greed.
And sometimes I've gone
into my purple world
and lost you.
One afternoon I stepped
into your room.
You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
--all those possible worlds!--
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.
I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy for you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don't care
but I'll sell my arms for you,
hold your secrets forever.
If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers.
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don't recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon's
yellow suburban annunciation.
in his frightening mask
Bliss Carman |
TO the assembled folk
At great St.
Young Brother Amiel on Christmas Eve;
I give you joy, my friends,
That as the round year ends,
We meet once more for gladness by God’s leave.
On other festal days
For penitence or praise
Or prayer we meet, or fullness of thanksgiving;
To-night we calendar
The rising of that star
Which lit the old world with new joy of living.
Ah, we disparage still
The Tidings of Good Will,
Discrediting Love’s gospel now as then!
And with the verbal creed
That God is love indeed,
Who dares make Love his god before all men?
Shall we not, therefore, friends,
Resolve to make amends
To that glad inspiration of the heart;
To grudge not, to cast out
Selfishness, malice, doubt,
Anger and fear; and for the better part,
To love so much, so well,
The spirit cannot tell
The range and sweep of her own boundary!
There is no period
Between the soul and God;
Love is the tide, God the eternal sea.
To-day we walk by love;
To strive is not enough,
Save against greed and ignorance and might.
We apprehend peace comes
Not with the roll of drums,
But in the still processions of the night.
And we perceive, not awe
But love is the great law
That binds the world together safe and whole.
The splendid planets run
Their courses in the sun;
Love is the gravitation of the soul.
In the profound unknown,
Illumined, fair, and lone,
Each star is set to shimmer in its place.
In the profound divine
Each soul is set to shine,
And its unique appointed orbit trace.
There is no near nor far,
Where glorious Algebar
Swings round his mighty circuit through the night,
Yet where without a sound
The winged seed comes to ground,
And the red leaf seems hardly to alight.
One force, one lore, one need
For satellite and seed,
In the serene benignity for all.
Letting her time-glass run
With star-dust, sun by sun,
In Nature’s thought there is no great nor small.
There is no far nor near
Within the spirit’s sphere.
The summer sunset’s scarlet-yellow wings
Are tinged with the same dye
That paints the tulip’s ply.
And what is colour but the soul of things?
(The earth was without form;
God moulded it with storm,
Ice, flood, and tempest, gleaming tint and hue;
Lest it should come to ill
For lack of spirit still,
He gave it colour,—let the love shine through.
Of old, men said, ‘Sin not;
By every line and jot
Ye shall abide; man’s heart is false and vile.
Christ said, ‘By love alone
In man’s heart is God known;
Obey the word no falsehood can defile.
And since that day we prove
Only how great is love,
Nor to this hour its greatness half believe.
For to what other power
Will life give equal dower,
Or chaos grant one moment of reprieve!
Look down the ages’ line,
Where slowly the divine
Evinces energy, puts forth control;
See mighty love alone
Transmuting stock and stone,
Infusing being, helping sense and soul.
And what is energy,
In-working, which bids be
The starry pageant and the life of earth?
What is the genesis
Of every joy and bliss,
Each action dared, each beauty brought to birth?
What hangs the sun on high?
What swells the growing rye?
What bids the loons cry on the Northern lake?
What stirs in swamp and swale,
When April winds prevail,
And all the dwellers of the ground awake?…
What lurks in the deep gaze
Of the old wolf? Amaze,
Hope, recognition, gladness, anger, fear.
But deeper than all these
Love muses, yearns, and sees,
And is the self that does not change nor veer.
Not love of self alone,
Struggle for lair and bone,
But self-denying love of mate and young,
Love that is kind and wise,
Knows trust and sacrifice,
And croons the old dark universal tongue.
And who has understood
Our brothers of the wood,
Save he who puts off guile and every guise
Of violence,—made truce
With panther, bear, and moose,
As beings like ourselves whom love makes wise?
For they, too, do love’s will,
Our lesser clansmen still;
The House of Many Mansions holds us all;
Courageous, glad and hale,
They go forth on the trail,
Hearing the message, hearkening to the call.
Open the door to-night
Within your heart, and light
The lantern of love there to shine afar.
On a tumultuous sea
Some straining craft, maybe,
With bearings lost, shall sight love’s silver star.