1. America

    America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
    America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.
    I can’t stand my own mind.
    America when will we end the human war?
    Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.
    I don’t feel good don’t bother me.
    I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.
    America when will you be angelic?
    When will you take off your clothes?
    When will you look at yourself through the grave?
    When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
    America why are your libraries full of tears?
    America when will you send your eggs to India?
    I’m sick of your insane demands.
    When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
    America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
    Your machinery is too much for me.
    You made me want to be a saint.
    There must be some other way to settle this argument.
    Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.
    Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
    I’m trying to come to the point.
    I refuse to give up my obsession.
    America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.
    America the plum blossoms are falling.
    I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder.
    America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
    America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.
    I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
    I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
    When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
    My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.
    You should have seen me reading Marx.
    My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.
    I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.
    I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
    America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.
    I’m addressing you.
    Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
    I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.
    I read it every week.
    Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
    I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
    It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.
    It occurs to me that I am America.
    I am talking to myself again.

    Asia is rising against me.
    I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.
    I’d better consider my national resources.
    My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable private literature that jetplanes 1400 miles an hour and twentyfive-thousand mental institutions.
    I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
    I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
    My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

    America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
    I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they’re all different sexes.
    America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
    America free Tom Mooney
    America save the Spanish Loyalists
    America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
    America I am the Scottsboro boys.
    America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother Bloor the Silk-strikers’ Ewig-Weibliche made me cry I once saw the Yiddish orator Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have been a spy.
    America you don’t really want to go to war.
    America its them bad Russians.
    Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
    The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.
    Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
    That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
    America this is quite serious.
    America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
    America is this correct?
    I’d better get right down to the job.
    It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
    America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

    Berkeley, January 17, 1956

    By Allen Ginsberg.

  2. Anthem

    After the Fourth of July

    On this night of the mid-
    summer festival of fire,
    where liquid explosives
    look like the arch and ache
    of the willow tree

    so near your grave, on this
    night of the awaiting mid-
    wife who lulled you in-
    to this world, the light
    all violet because the Earth and stars
    inclined toward each other,
    she also sleeps, she who was
    your first deliverer, guiding you out

    of your mother—her bluing
    skin no small sign of the future
    cyanosis of her spirit for no
    small journey was it to this
    country to bring you to birth
    in this torch

    song heat and an anthem of a free
    nation’s conception of combustions:
    rosins, petroleum, tallow, arsenic
    and worse, as you, too, fell from the sky

    of her body with me
    a microscopic egg inside—
    half the composition
    that made up my own
    toss and tumble to this crash
    of ground I sit over and bless
    while you lie under, under
    the willow, under this world
    that no midwife
    nor wavelength can under-
    standably reach. So I stand

    in this over-
    determined fire forced out
    like bullets upon a target—
    the pulled trigger releasing
    the hammer that strikes
    the impacted mixture—
    hailstorm and hymn

    of memories. And the outstretched womb
    involutes and the abdominal wall tightens
    and inside all abandoned encasements
    the night over the day darkens.

    By Susan Hahn.

  3. Idaho Requiem

    for Robert Lowell

    Out here, we don’t talk about culture,
    we think we are. We nurtured Ezra Pound
    who ran from us like hell
    and never came back. You
    never came at all. You
    will never know how clever
    we never are out here.
    You never drank red beer.
    You never popped a grouse
    under a blue spruce just because it was there.

    Tell us about Schopenhauer and your friends
    and fine old family. We left ours
    at the Mississippi, have no names left
    to drop. We spend our time
    avoiding Californians and waiting
    for the sage to bloom, and when it does
    we miss the damn things half the time.
    When a stranger comes in we smile
    and say, “Tell us about yourself.”
    Then we listen real close.

    But you would say, “I’ve said what I have to say.”
    Too subtle, perhaps, for a can of beer,
    too Augustan for the Snake River breaks.
    But how do you know this wasn’t just
    the place to die? Why not have those
    kinfolk ship your bones out here, just
    for irony’s sake? We keep things plain
    and clear because of the mountains.
    Our mythology comes down to a logger
    stirring his coffee with his thumb.

    by Ron McFarland

  4. Legal Alien

    Bi-lingual, Bi-cultural,
    able to slip from “How’s life?”
    to “Me’stan volviendo loca,”
    able to sit in a paneled office
    drafting memos in smooth English,
    able to order in fluent Spanish
    at a Mexican restaurant,
    American by hyphenated,
    viewed by Anglos as perhaps exotic,
    perhaps inferior, definitely different,
    viewed by Mexicans as alien,
    (their eyes say, “You may speak
    Spanish but you’re not like me”)
    an American to Mexicans
    a Mexican to Americans
    a handy token
    sliding back and forth
    between the fringes of both worlds
    by smiling
    by masking the discomfort
    of being prejudged

    By Pat Mora

  5. Beyond Even This

    Who would have thought the afterlife would
    look so much like Ohio? A small town place,
    thickly settled among deciduous trees.
    I lived for what seemed a very short time.
    Several things did not work out.
    Casually almost, I became another one
    of the departed, but I had never imagined
    the tunnel of hot wind that pulls
    the newly dead into the dry Midwest
    and plants us like corn. I am
    not alone, but I am restless.
    There is such sorrow in these geese
    flying over, trying to find a place to land
    in the miles and miles of parking lots
    that once were soft wetlands. They seem
    as puzzled as I am about where to be.
    Often they glide, in what I guess is
    a consultation with each other,
    getting their bearings, as I do when
    I stare out my window and count up
    what I see. It’s not much really:
    one buckeye tree, three white frame houses,
    one evergreen, five piles of yellow leaves.
    This is not enough for any heaven I had
    dreamed, but I am taking the long view.
    There must be a backcountry of the beyond,
    beyond even this and farther out,
    past the dark smoky city on the shore
    of Lake Erie, through the landlocked passages
    to the Great Sweetwater Seas.

    By Maggie Anderson

  6. The Gift Outright

    The land was ours before we were the land’s.
    She was our land more than a hundred years
    Before we were her people. She was ours
    In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
    But we were England’s, still colonials,
    Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
    Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
    Something we were withholding made us weak
    Until we found out that it was ourselves
    We were withholding from our land of living,
    And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
    Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
    (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
    To the land vaguely realizing westward,
    But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
    Such as she was, such as she would become.

    By Robert Frost

  7. A Supermarket In California

    What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whit-
    man, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees
    with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
    In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images,
    I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of
    your enumerations!
    What peaches and what penumbras! Whole fam-
    ilies shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives
    in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you,
    Garcнa Lorca, what were you doing down by the

    I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old
    grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator
    and eyeing the grocery boys.
    I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed
    the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my
    I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of
    cans following you, and followed in my imagination
    by the store detective.
    We strode down the open corridors together in
    our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every
    frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
    Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors
    close in an hour. Which way does your beard point
    (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
    supermarket and feel absurd.)
    Will we walk all night through solitary streets?
    The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses,
    we’ll both be lonely.
    Will we stroll dreaming ofthe lost America of love
    past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent
    Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-
    teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit
    poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank
    and stood watching the boat disappear on the black
    waters of Lethe?

    By Allen Ginsberg

  8. I, Too, Sing America

    I, too, sing America.

    I am the darker brother.
    They send me to eat in the kitchen
    When company comes,
    But I laugh,
    And eat well,
    And grow strong.

    I’ll be at the table
    When company comes.
    Nobody’ll dare
    Say to me,
    “Eat in the kitchen,”

    They’ll see how beautiful I am
    And be ashamed—

    I, too, am America.

    by Langston Hughes