"America, you seem to be dying"

Raymond Souster

America
you seem to be dying
America
moving across the forty-ninth parallel each day a stronger more death-laden stench; wafting inshore from off the Great Lakes the same unmistakable stink, so unlike the usual putrefaction of these waters
America
the cracks are beginning to show
America
I knew you were marching to doom the night a young American told me: "There at Buffalo I saw our flag flying, then fifty yards further on your Maple Leaf, and I thought: thank God I'll never have to cross that line going back again."
America
even your best friends of yesterday are now proud to be your enemies
America
that time is past when the sight of the Stars and Stripes flying at the masthead of one of your ships can calm the "natives," that time too is over when a small detachment of Marines on landing can still quickly restore law and order and a continuance of the prescribed vested interests
America
there will be no more San Juan Hills, no more Remember the Maines, no more sad empires of United Fruit
America
Your time is running out fast
America
you're sitting on your own rumbling volcano
America
only you could create a New York where a new breed of white rats chase slum children through rotting rooms, biting infant's flesh with the same relish as that tailor's dummy at the same moment downtown taking his first mouthful of 10-dollar steak and beaming across it at his equally overdressed partner...
America
you seem bent on self-destruction
America
today you are Ginsberg's nightmare brought up-to-date, today you would sicken Hart Crane, make him puke on his Brooklyn Bridge, today you are fast becoming Jeffers' perishing republic all set to vanish in one final blast with the rest of the despairing world
America
phoney as a Hollywood cowboy main street, laughable as Rockefeller with his ten-cent pieces, vulgar as a Las Vegas nightclub, brave as your airmen machine-gunning river-front refugees in the broad daylight of Dresden's holocaust
America
you have learned from everyone's history but your own
America
all the Kennedys left cannot help you now
America
I've learned how you operate, I know how votes are managed, who has his coat pockets stuffed with bribes, who finds himself asked to be Assistant Secretary of this or that, who is tossed out finally with nothing left but bitterness eating at his heart
America...
was promises nobody kept or ever intended keeping
America
how do you turn quiet, home-loving men in five short years into Black avengers who write and scream out to their brothers: break doors, smash windows at night or anytime, bust in every store window, drag out all you can carry, set fire, kill or maim whitey, pump holes in every dirty cop or get him good with a brick or your own two hands
America
give it all back to the Indians if they can stand the smell and the flies around the corpse
America
how easily your myths tarnish, how expendable are your heroes, how quickly, how easily you swallow good people into your patented garbage disposal, then grind them down into nice little pieces to be carted away to the dump with the same care accorded the ashes of dead Japanese soldiers...
America
the world has watched you in Vietnam and even its hardened stomach has been turned, you have buried yourself in your own Coca-Cola beer can litter, your bar-to-bar Saigon filth so well aped by the small men you came to save but instead have corrupted forever; after your crazy "weed killer" squadrons have bared all the trees, after your Incinderjell has roasted all available corpses, then perhaps we'll see at last every barbed wire death camp, count every tin can house left standing, see how much rice still grows — after the last plane has been shot down out of the sky we'll be able to see who owns all of the graft concessions now, who hands out the government payoffs and who opens unnumbered bank accounts in Switzerland daily — but until then we watch as your Marines advance, as the underground bunkers are cooked out one by one, as the aircraft let go their terror bombs hoping these latest villages have a few more V.C. than the ones raided yesterday — the whole world watches, wonders how it will end, while you twine yourself more and more with the dragon coils of your own premeditated meddling
America
America
in the name of God you never trusted, e pluribus unum
February, 1968

Epilogue

America
tonight fiery candles of the black man's mass burn crimson in the skies of Washington, Chicago, tributes from the ghettos to your Gandhi struck down by bullet of hate, the Gun used again to work out history, the Gun in the hands of the lawless once again making jungles of your streets, mockery of your laws, the Gun that gave you birth, that burned on its red-hot gun barrel flesh of brother turned against brother, once again supreme...