America and Me (for Ginsberg and Whitman)


“America and Me (for Ginsberg and Whitman)”
by Matthew T. Segall

America, you’ve given me everything
and now you are nothing.

America 19 trillion 900 billion dollars in debt
December 3rd 2016.

I no longer own my own mind.

America when will we end the
Earth War?

In 1956, Ginsberg said
“Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb, America.”

In 1856, Whitman still
heard America singing.
Squatters, mechanics, train conductors,
carpenters, masons, merchants,
shoemakers, farmers
singing.

He heard  mothers
singing to children
and friends and families singing
strong patriotic songs.

He heard enslaved Americans
singing and dancing
on their one night in seven
of fire-lit freedom.

Whitman reminds us of the great
“plunges and throes and triumphs and falls of democracy,”
and he reminds us of that Great Family of nations
—the Nation of nations—
the Earth,
and he reminds us of
the greatness of the way
the Earth became what it is.

“Do you imagine Earth is stopped at this?,”
Whitman asks.
“Do you imagine its increase abandoned?”

Earth inhales
every atom bomb,
every song sung,
every birth and every death,
every pipeline and every protest,
and it weeps glacial tears
for our human wounding.

And we Americans,
still youthful and buoyant,
feel special,
believe ourselves exceptional,
the leader of the free world,
the defender of freedom.

But what of the Earth Guardians,
what of the Water Protectors,
what of the buffalo and the condor,
the salmon and the sequoia,
are they not Americans, too?

I am angry at you, America,
and you’ve gone so mad
only poetry can reach you now.

America when will you awaken
from your dream?

You already stand naked before
the wide-eyed world,
all your top secrets leaked,
all your spying and droning
out in the open.

When  will you look at yourself
through the eyes of geostory?

When will you be worthy
of humanity and the
Earth Community?

America why are your libraries empty?
America why are your elementary schools
like factories
and your universities
like shopping malls?

America will you send your eggs to Allepo?

Why did Ginsberg dream of meeting
Whitman in a grocery store
and not a mushroom-speckled meadow?

Where are America’s poets today?
When will they become
the acknowledged lawmakers of
our nation?

Will America ever learn to
sing the Earth’s song?

America after all it is you and I
who must heal this world
and not the God we pray to
on our trusted money.

America your machinery
is too much for my humanity.

I read Chomsky and Zinn
in college.

America your history
made me want to renounce
my citizenry,
move to the dessert and
become a rabbi.
But there must be some
other way to heal
this wound.

Bernie Sanders is still
a Senator,
but the system is
so sinister.

We thought Trump was funny on TV
and now he’s in DC.

I’m trying to get to the point.

America stop pushing,
I know what I’m doing.

America the plum blossoms are falling.

I haven’t read the news
in minutes,
every second
somebody caught lying,
stealing, cheating, going on trial
for rape and murder.

America I feel sentimental
about democratic socialism.

I used to be an anarchist when I was a kid
and I’m not sorry.

I sat at my desk for nights on end
staring at dusty books
stacked on the floor.

You should’ve seen me
reading Zizek and Graeber.

I smoke cannabis every chance I get.

My astrologer thinks I’m perfectly right.

I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.

America I still haven’t told you
what you did to my grandpa Bob
after he came back
from Germany and Japan.

America I’m addressing you.
Don’t let your emotional life
be run by CNN and Drudge Report.

I’m obsessed by Drudge Report.
I read it every day.
The bookmark stares at me
every time I open my browser.
I read it on the BART platform
at Downtown Berkeley station
while I wait on the Millbrae train.

America we’ve got a mission
but we’re still missing the point.

America I don’t pledge allegiance
to your flag.
America your star-spangled
and blood-spattered banner
deserves to dissolve.

If we be patriots of some nation,
may it be the Earth Nation,
one nation under Sun, Moon, and Stars,
One People made of many,
all species called to congress.

America you’ve given me everything
and now I am nothing.

America let go of your copyright on freedom,
give the world its destiny back,
let democracy remain
an unfinished cosmic project.

America pass the torch
and let your poets
light the future.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. What all peoples on Earth have, the people of the United States had not. Left without a name for themselves they wandered, before stealing the one given to a continent broken in two. And what they stole was born from a theft. Yet, like a Parícutin that rose out of the blue, they want us to believe, ‘t is to greet the great Americus their promised land emerged from the seas…

    https://www.commonlit.org/texts/america-and-i

  2. Ed Levin says:

    Wonderful, Matt. I love it!

  3. PeterJ says:

    Thanks Don. Powerful words. I must read Ginsberg. Just now reading Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ so this struck a strong chord. There is a typo – (‘mat’ for ‘may’). Amazing picture as well. I wonder who’s it is.

    1. PeterJ says:

      Oops. Pardon the name mix-up.

  4. Too much freedom. I hadn’t known in my teens it was possible. But now I am a teacher in a public high school, and I often wonder, given the role I play, how to lead people further into freedom when they already /have/ their freedom. I like your line: “and you’ve gone so mad / only poetry can reach you now.” Something to meditate on. The “poetic,” to quote Barfield, “and apparently ‘metaphorical’ values were latent in meaning from the beginning.” Words as tools for exploration as much as they are means to point out hardened facts. And this continued exploration as the harbinger of freedom.

    -Zack

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