Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE NEW ANTHEM, by NORMAN BOLKER

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE NEW ANTHEM, by                    
First Line: Hammered steel strips laid out
Last Line: With joy and peace on every face.
Subject(s): Poverty; Racism; Religious Discrimination; Social Protest; United States; Racial Prejudice; Bigotry; Religious Conflict; America

America, I sing of thee
Home of the brave, land of the free.


Hammered steel strips laid out,
like soldiers fallen in the rout,
steel blue steel with splotches of rust
drip their rotting in red dust.
Empty silhouettes punched in zinc
powder off in the metal sink.
A rolling power plant on the cut-off track
with boiler asbestos chewed by a hack --
the tonful giant sags and bends,
is screw-jacked up at both its ends.
The track in dusty cinders bedded,
the old ties shredded.
On the long crane arm the paint in scales
blows off. The wind through the cracked glass wails
in and out the factory.
Clotted grease and foul debris,
dusty cobwebs, musty smell,
while darkness over the quiet shops well
conceals the cancers, corroded welts.
The flailing steel arms, flapping belts
are stiff and quiet. The dampness steals
around the bent spokes of the wheels.
And steel drips with drops of rust
their rottings in the crimson dust.

America, it is of thee,
Beautiful from sea to sea.
Scan thy fields of golden grains,
And behold thy fertile plains.

Drooping cattle, sunken, gaunt,
the grassless fields wander, haunt.
They scuff the ground with yellow teeth.
Veins of dust rise as they breathe.
The red-eyed cattle moan and low.
The seed which in the earth would sew
its roots, stagnates. There is no water.
The sun above beats down the hotter,
shrivels up the tender grass.
The obscene crows croak, say their mass.
The cows, with three-year fodder, bloat,
gasp as the shimmering heatwaves float.
And the parched dust rises in the barren fields
as slough from a wound that never heals.
On the hills the corn stands sere and thin,
a just reward for some unknown sin.

America, I sing of thee,
Land of the brave, home of the free.
With thy clean soul and fine ideals --
Kindness that my country feels --
Crown thy good with brotherhood --
Each one at Freedom's altar kneels.


Fellow members of the Ro-ta-ree,
I feel as good, when I look and see
your jovial, sleek, and beaming faces,
as I did at 3 A.M. when I held all aces
at that pinochle game last night at Mac's
But now, I feel that I could have broke
the ice with a traveling-salesman joke,
except that I feel that it wouldn't be fitting
in the presence of the Reverend Nitting,
who is here to speak to you
and introduce his point of view.
Thank you, thank you, yes, thank you.
Blah, blah, blee, and blah, blah blue
so now, gentlemen, I must say,
thank you, thank you, and good day ...
Hell, he's right about upstart workers,
labor unions and lazy shirkers.
We got the niggers, we got the Klanners,
now let's get those Moscow planners.
Stand 'em up and make 'em dance.
Chase 'em out before they get the chance
to infect the masses with their rotten ideas.
Crush 'em out like stinkin' fleas.
And to think those Reds are in this country, here!
Sure, I'll have another beer.

america, I sing of thee,
'Tis the land of the brave and free --
With tolerance toward all, each feels --
Above, the bell of good-will peals.


Say kid, didn't you get tough with me
a week ago? Well, now we'll see.
Don't lie out of it. I know your game.
Shut up. Now tell me -- what's your name?
Jakie Cohen? See! I said I knew
all the time he was a Jew.
All right, you rat, let's hear you pray.
Say, don't try to run away.
Where'd you get that big nose, kike?
Let's see you give him that uppercut, Mike.
Punch him, Jim, and muss his hair.
We'll beat him up this time for fair.
Hit him, Joe, yes, get him twice.
Don't you know he killed our Christ?

America, I sing of thee,
Land of peace and liberty --
Crown thy good
With brotherhood --
Scan thy fields,
their golden yields --
Thank dear God
He made this sod --
Thank Him that He made this place
With joy and peace on every face.

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