America

Frederick Seidel

Hemingway and Wallace Stevens got in a fight,
Drunken fisticuffs in Paris over who was right.
En garde! Put up your dukes!
Then one of them suddenly pukes.
The moon turned into the sun overnight.

Pound isn’t on Mount Rushmore yet.
Support to put Pound there is hard to get.
Add Ezra Pound to Mount Rushmore!
Add his face to the other presidents!
Let South Dakota hear his antique I’m-reciting-poetry voice.

En garde! I don’t believe a word the sun is saying.
En garde! I hear the sun announce that it’s been praying.
I take my constitutional down Broadway
And pray for the return of all the hostages
And hear the optimistic all-clear siren.

They look like shackled sausages, the hostages.
Please follow us down Broadway.
We’re talking to ourselves as if we’re homeless,
But actually we’re talking on our cell phones you can’t see
At first, then you see and it makes sense.

I’m talking to a friend in Santa Fe
And what’s he say? What say, friend in Santa Fe?
So many mountains has New Mexico. So many joys.
It don’t make sense.
Then it makes sense.

A woman out there home-schools her son.
She breastfeeds him until the boy is four.
They both are happy and seem smart and well.
She’s America! Meet you in New York. Meet you at the zoo.
Let’s meet at the Met. Carnegie Hall tonight.

She breastfed him until the boy was four but claims,
Untruthfully, it stopped when he was three.
Four is embarrassing!
Four is America!
Land of tit! Land of wampum and Big Chief Big Breasts.

In Santa Fe did Kubla Khan
A stately Astrodome decree.
You enter a private screening room
As big as Topanga Canyon outside
Los Angeles,

And rise as high above the Pacific
As the big houses in Malibu do,
Movie star castles the size of mountains,
Where the stars
Feast and rest.

White meat marches to the coast of New Mexico (there is none),
Skies over to Dubai and back in a private jet.
White meat eats dark meat and night. White meat eats light.
The Sultan rides his gorgeously caparisoned elephant toward LA
And the only bookshop in sight.

Gentlemen, start your engines!
I don’t believe a word the sun is saying.
Drivers, start your engines!
I hear the sun announce that it’s been praying.
The hostages have been beheaded.

Mountains of melody rise from a page
Of Pound’s Pisan Cantos, all-American Pound writing in a steel cage
Made of temporary-airfield landing-strip matting
Turned into an outdoor prison cell
Open to the rain and the blistering Italian sun.

Never mind what he did,
Mountains of melody rise,
For which he is
Battered and bleached and sundried and drowned
By Big Chief Big Breasts.

I am no wartime traitor frying without a roof
Under Lord Brother Sun.
Nor am I naked in a cage being rained on.
Nor on a New York City sidewalk homeless, begging in rags,
Shitting poems in my pants.

King Lear, preposterously arrogant and unrepentant and anti-Semitic,
Went to meet the American Army at Pisa to surrender.
He walks with me down Broadway on my daily walk,
Reliving his foolishness
With immortal melodious regret – but not humility, not yet.