“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

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 21 trillion 114 billion dollars in debt

April 3rd 2018.


I no longer own my own mind.


America when will we end the

Earth War?


In 1956, Allen Ginsberg said

“Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb, America.”


In 1856, Walt Whitman still

heard America singing.

Squatters, nurses, train conductors,

carpenters, itinerant lecturers, masons, merchants,

shoemakers, farmers


He heard mothers

singing to children

and friends and families singing

strong patriotic songs.

He heard enslaved Americans,

souls singing and bodies 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 absorbs

every atom bomb,

every server farm,

every pipeline and every protest,

every birth and every death of

every being beneath the Sun,

and it weeps glacial tears

for the tragedy of our history.


And we Americans,

though less youthful and buoyant now,

still feel special,

believe ourselves exceptional,

defenders of freedom.


But what of the Earth Guardians,

what of the Water Protectors,

what of the buffalo and the bumblebee,

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 save you now.


America when will you awaken

from your dream?


You already stand stark naked before

the weary-eyed world,

all your top secrets leaked,

all your rigging and spying and droning

out in the open.


When will you look at yourself

through geostory,

When will you see yourself

though Gaia’s eyes?


When will you be worthy

of humankind and the

Earth Community?


America why are your cities so proud while

homeless men and women

sleep in tents

on the street

in the shadow of half-empty

high rises?


America why are your libraries empty?

America why are your elementary schools like prisons

and your universities like shopping malls?

America will you send your eggs to Palestine?


Why did Ginsberg dream of meeting Whitman

in a grocery store

and not a mushroom speckled meadow?


America why are all your forests on fire?

Why are your dollar bills green?


America where are your poets?

When will poets become

the acknowledged lawmakers of

our nation?

When will poets replace presidents

as our common referees?

Will America ever learn to

chant the Earth’s strophes?

Will we settle for



America after all it is you and I

who must heal this world

and not the green God we pray to

on our trusty 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

to become a rabbi

wandering in the wilderness of God.


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

next to Little Marco

and Low Energy Jeb

and Lyin’ Ted,

but now he’s in DC

plotting wars

like business deals.


I’m trying to get to the point.

America stop pushing me,

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, shooting,

going on trial

for rape and murder.


America I’m addressing you.


Don’t let your emotional life

be run by CNN and Fox.

I’m obsessed with the news.

I read it every day.

The scrolling horrors staring back at me

as I flick at my phone screen

on the crowded Millbrae train.

I glance at all the phone screens around me

their numbing glow

obscuring the obscenity

of what they display.


America it’s not news

we’re all going to die one day.


America why is medicine so expensive?

Why is healthcare not a right?


America I feel sentimental

about democratic socialism.


America I used to be an anarchist when I was a kid

I’m not sorry.

I sat at my desk for nights on end

staring at the books on the shelf.


You should’ve seen me

reading Marx.


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

after he came back

from fighting in

Germany and Japan.


America we’ve got a mission

but we’re missing the boat.


America I don’t pledge allegiance

to your flag.


America your star-spangled

and blood-spattered banner

deserves to unravel.


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 give the Earth its freedom back.

Compost the Constitution.

Let democracy become creaturely.

America this is quite serious.

America this is the impression I get

after looking up from my screen.

America is this correct?


America the oceans

that once sheltered you

from waves of war

are rising.


As your empire evaporates,

take no hope in isolation.

Become an open home

of equal daughters, equal sons,

All, all alike endear’d,

grown, ungrown, young or old,

Become strong, ample, fair,

enduring, capable, rich,

Perennial with the Earth,

with Freedom, Law, and Love,

Become a grand, sane,

towering, seated Mother,

Chair’d in the adamant of Time.







5 responses to “America and Me (for Ginsberg and Whitman)”

  1. Yannick Baele Avatar

    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…


  2. Ed Levin Avatar
    Ed Levin

    Wonderful, Matt. I love it!

  3. PeterJ Avatar

    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 Avatar

      Oops. Pardon the name mix-up.

  4. Zack & Jen Ramey Avatar

    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.


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