Sunday, March 18, 2007

Poem celebrating America, Beacon of Liberty

Poem celebrating America, Beacon of Liberty


It is a federation
Of mismatched identities.
At the Alamo, the heroes died
In defiance or for the hell of it.
"Live free or die."
The Mayflower pilgrims
Desired to be free to oppress.
The Puritan ethic was the rigor
Of the Salem witch trials.
From these contrasting strands,
Libertarian pride and a punitive God,
America was woven.
At first it was a struggle.
But, right near the outset,
The one necessary thing was supplied:
And consolidating genocide,
Gave the newcomers their tenure on the land.
Granted imperial confidence
By the blood of Africa,
By the bones of a billion dead injuns,
America confirmed its divine mission
To be a beacon of liberty for the world.
The huddled masses came.
Fed into the cloth,
The skeins of Ellis Island.
Poland spoke to China
While Lithuania looked on.
Yiddish yattered to Vikings
In three different variants of Norse.
For Babel to communicate, it needed
One single language:
Simplified by the efficiency of a common idiom,
The eagles marched.
Which, give or take a baseball game or two,
Sums up Yankland.
America is a world
Which knows how to find its own toenails
With absolute confidence.
But knows, of the larger world,
Only that it's nowhere on the road map.
Examples could be quoted, endlessly,
But the one that sticks in mind
Is the well-meaning Americans
Innocently parading the proud flag of the distant land of Canada
Upside down.
"When elephants fight, the grass is trampled."
And America, largest of the elephants,
Scarcely remembers the fact that grass exists.

Footnote #1: the poem's take on Hollywood as the answer to the problem of cultural multiplicity is standard received wisdom, and is not original to the poet.

Footnote #2: I checked my vague recollection of the Canadian flag incident, and Googled my way to, where I found the following:

"On October 18th, during the pre-game ceremony for the second game of the 1992 World Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves, a U.S. Marine Corps colour guard mistakenly presented the Canadian flag upside-down."

The source, apparently, was Yahoo News, which apparently posted this factoid on the 18th of October in the year 2002.

This poem is part of an ongoing project, the GENGHIS LOTUS POETRY COLLECTION, already online in partial form at, and tentatively scheduled for publication as a paperback book round about November 2007 (or earlier, if I can get A into gear).


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