American exceptionalism


Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind

By Carl Sandburg, 1920

“The past is a bucket of ashes.”

.
.
.

.

.
.
.
.
.
.

1

The woman named To-morrow
sits with a hairpin in her teeth
and takes her time
and does her hair the way she wants it
and fastens at last the last braid and coil
and puts the hairpin where it belongs
and turns and drawls:  Well, what of it?
My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone.
What of it?  Let the dead be dead.

2

The doors were cedar
and the panels strips of gold
and the girls were golden girls
and the panels read and the girls chanted:
         We are the greatest city,
         the greatest nation:
         nothing like us ever was.

The doors are twisted on broken hinges.
Sheets of rain swish through on the wind
where the golden girls ran and the panels
        read:
                 We are the greatest city,
                 the greatest nation,
                 nothing like us ever was.

3

It has happened before.
Strong men put up a city and got
         a nation together,
And paid singers to sing and women
         to warble:  We are the greatest city,
                  the greatest nation,
                  nothing like us ever was.

And while the singers sang
and the strong men listened
and paid the singers well
and felt good about it all,
         there were rats and lizards who listened
         … and the only listeners left now
         … are … the rats … and the lizards.

And there are black crows
crying, “Caw, caw,”
bringing mud and sticks
         building a nest
        over the words carved
        on the doors where the panels were cedar
        and the strips on the panels were gold
        and the golden girls came singing:
                We are the greatest city,
                the greatest nation:
                nothing like us ever was.

The only singers now are crows crying, “Caw, caw,”
And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways.
And the only listeners now are … the rats … and
        the lizards.

4

The feet of the rats
scribble on the door sills;
the hieroglyphs of the rat footprints
chatter the pedigrees of the rats
and babble of the blood
and gabble of the breed
of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers
of the rats.

And the wind shifts
and the dust on a door sill shifts
and even the writing of the rat footprints
tells us nothing, nothing at all
about the greatest city, the greatest nation
where the strong men listened
and the women warbled:  Nothing like us ever
        was.

Related Posts

Catholic Church’s best ambassador After Vatican’s rebuke of nuns, time to hear Mary’s voice By Lisa Miller, April 26, 2012 ... Imagine the fury of the men of Galilee when a youn...
Indistinguishable from the lunatic fringe Satanazis III: Night of the Satanazis By Fred Clark, April 25, 2012 ... Don’t imagine you’re safe just because Pat Robertson, Demon Hunter, is ...
Our crime was looking like the people We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment By George Takei, Friday 27 April 2012 15.15 EDT ... Seventy years ago, US soldiers...
Funereal pieties Christopher Hitchens made a cogent case for war – but he was still wrong By Patrick Cockburn, Sunday 29 April 2012 ... There was a telling omis...
Disgusted and amazed Osama Bin Laden anniversary: Torture apologists try again to justify the unjustifiable By Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, 12:23 PM ET, 04/30/2012 ......
And it’s over? 'We've gone way beyond Apartheid' By Frank Barat, 02 May 2012 14:27 ... I caught up with Jeff Halper, long time Israeli peace activist, directo...
While the fields go fallow Palestinian Christians Against the Occupation By Philip Farah, 05/ 1/2012  6:29 am ... In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Israeli ...
Third-rate wingnut talkshow host This supremely Republican supreme court By Scott Lemieux, Friday 27 April 2012 15.41 EDT ... The 2008 elections represented a decisive repudiat...
Coordinated, systematic racial discrimination Christians of the Holy Land By Ben White, 26 Apr 2012 06:36 ... A recent report by CBS show 60 Minutes on "Christians of the Holy Land" has r...
Astoundingly naïve Deir Yassin: No passing over history By Yousef Munayyer, 09 Apr 2012 16:52 ... On April 9, 1948, scores of Palestinian civilians were massacred...

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2011/02/16/american-exceptionalism/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.