America

America
by Allen Ginsberg

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.

America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.

I can’t stand my own mind.

America when will we end the human war?

Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb

I don’t feel good don’t bother me.

I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.

America when will you be angelic?

When will you take off your clothes?

When will you look at yourself through the grave?

When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?

America why are your libraries full of tears?

America when will you send your eggs to India?

I’m sick of your insane demands.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?

America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.

Your machinery is too much for me.

You made me want to be a saint.

There must be some other way to settle this argument.

Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.

Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?

I’m trying to come to the point.

I refuse to give up my obsession.

America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.

America the plum blossoms are falling.

I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for

   murder.

America I feel sentimental about the
Wobblies.

America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I’m not sorry.

I smoke marijuana every chance I get.

I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.

When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.

My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.

You should have seen me reading Marx.

My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.

I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.

I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.

America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over

   from Russia.

I’m addressing you.

Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?

I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.

I read it every week.

Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.

I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.

It’s always telling me about responsibility.  Businessmen are serious.  Movie

   producers are serious.  Everybody’s serious but me.

It occurs to me that I am America.

I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.

I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.

I’d better consider my national resources.

My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals

   an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and

   twentyfivethousand mental institutions.

I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underpriviliged who live in

   my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.

I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.

My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?

I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his

   automobiles more so they’re all different sexes

America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe

America free Tom Mooney

America save the Spanish Loyalists

America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die

America I am the Scottsboro boys.

America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they

   sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the

   speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the

   workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party

   was in 1935 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother

   Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain.  Everybody must have

   been a spy.

America you don’t really want to go to war.

America it’s them bad Russians.

Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen.  And them Russians.

The Russia wants to eat us alive.  The Russia’s power mad.  She wants to take

   our cars from out our garages.

Her wants to grab Chicago.  Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest.  her wants our

   auto plants in Siberia.  Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.

That no good.  Ugh.  Him makes Indians learn read.  Him need big black niggers.

   Hah.  Her make us all work sixteen hours a day.  Help.

America this is quite serious.

America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.

America is this correct?

I’d better get right down to the job.

It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts

   factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.

America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/america.html

This seems like an appropriate poem for the Fourth of July in the mood I’m in right now.

You can also listen to a recording of Ginsberg reading an early version of this poem.  (Check out the rest of the site as well — it’s got both modern and historical readings, including some for children.)

When I was in high school, I had a chance to hear Ginsberg reading his poetry.  He read this one very differently than he does on this recording — softly, and as if he thought the whole thing was a bit of a joke.  And of course, we were sitting there listening very seriously.  Here he reads it with lots of energy, and the crowd cracks up with almost every line.

2 Responses to “America”

  1. bj Says:

    Here’s mine. Eighteen months, and a congress controlled by the opposition makes me think we can survive to a better future. As usual, there will be a lot of mending and fixing to do, but we’ve done it before, and it can be done again. His distress is different from what we face today, but I do believe American can be America again.
    bj
    —————–
    Let America Be America Again
    by Langston Hughes
    Let America be America again.
    Let it be the dream it used to be.
    Let it be the pioneer on the plain
    Seeking a home where he himself is free.
    (America never was America to me.)
    Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
    Let it be that great strong land of love
    Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
    That any man be crushed by one above.
    (It never was America to me.)
    O, let my land be a land where Liberty
    Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
    But opportunity is real, and life is free,
    Equality is in the air we breathe.
    (There’s never been equality for me,
    Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
    Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
    And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
    I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
    I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
    I am the red man driven from the land,
    I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
    And finding only the same old stupid plan
    Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
    I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
    Tangled in that ancient endless chain
    Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
    Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
    Of work the men! Of take the pay!
    Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
    I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
    I am the worker sold to the machine.
    I am the Negro, servant to you all.
    I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
    Hungry yet today despite the dream.
    Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
    I am the man who never got ahead,
    The poorest worker bartered through the years.
    Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
    In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
    Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
    That even yet its mighty daring sings
    In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
    That’s made America the land it has become.
    O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
    In search of what I meant to be my home–
    For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
    And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
    And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
    To build a “homeland of the free.”
    The free?
    Who said the free? Not me?
    Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
    The millions shot down when we strike?
    The millions who have nothing for our pay?
    For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
    And all the songs we’ve sung
    And all the hopes we’ve held
    And all the flags we’ve hung,
    The millions who have nothing for our pay–
    Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
    O, let America be America again–
    The land that never has been yet–
    And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
    The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
    Who made America,
    Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
    Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
    Must bring back our mighty dream again.
    Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
    The steel of freedom does not stain.
    From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
    We must take back our land again,
    America!
    O, yes,
    I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath–
    America will be!
    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
    The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
    We, the people, must redeem
    The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
    The mountains and the endless plain–
    All, all the stretch of these great green states–
    And make America again!
    From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

  2. landismom Says:

    Oh, Allen, how I miss you. I did poetry today too, but my Communist poet was Turkish, I fear.
    “Are we going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?”
    How great is that line?

Leave a Reply