Friday, October 10, 2014

Bill Arthrell's poem: America

Bill Arthrell, a veteran of Kent State, who has continued, as a dedicated teacher in Ohio, to note some truths about America. perhaps here missing Langston Hughes' grand "America will be" for the promise, in America as elsewhere, is not a false promise (it is perhaps implied in his line "Whitman said it Right...") - has also worked on a kibbutz (he wrote to me of some joy in the collective experience, of exploitation and that Israel was the most racist society he had seen):


The Aggressive,
The Flamboyant.
All Ego and Ambition.
It is Not Whitman’s
Rolling farms of Ohio
Or the Vibrant Docks of Manhattan—
Or Thomas Wolfe’s
Of Sun
Piercing Divinity
To light up Carolina’s
Broken Back of Tobacco.

It is not Thomas Jefferson’s Documents,
Thomas Jefferson’s slaves.
Even though
Were liberated 150 years ago
They were recast into
Jim Crow, lynchings,
Unjust incarcerations.

Then came immigrants—
Russia, Poland, Slovenia—
The Chains of Factory Labor,
12 Hours, 6 Days a Week—
7 Days even.
Or Simple Farmers
In Minnesota, Iowa—
Not Whitman’s Majestic Prairies,
But harsh winters, harsh summers,
The harshest work
Of Endless Wheat.


And the Blind Streets of New York, Philadelphia—
Sightless of Poverty,

Whitman said it Right,
But got it Wrong—

The Dazzle of America
The Strip in Vegas—
Foreclosure of homes,
The Crash of Wall Street—
Golden Parachutes for Them,
Golden Arches for us.

The Pentagon
Bringing down the Mist
On Iraq, Afghanistan.
The Mist
Of Smart Bombs,
Another Dead Wedding Party.

The bones of Cochise,
The Navajo
Are roads now—
Interstates delivering
The Oil
It takes to drill for More Oil.

Endless Cycle of Avarice—
That America,
The Dead America—
The Glory of the Constitution,
The Grandeur of the Declaration—
The America that Isn’t,
The America that Never Was.

-Bill Arthrell, June 7, 2012,
Cleveland Hts., Ohio.

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