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DT: come reap
Posted on 2003.28.08 at 17:26
Soundtrack: k.d. lang - Theme From the Valley of the Dolls
Thanks to copperbadge for giving me the idea. I've loved this poem for ages. Whimsical and poignant at the same time, now perhaps even more than at the time it was written. I first heard it recited in unison by my daughter's fourth-or-fifth grade Waldorf class.




American Names

by Stephen Vincent Benet


I have fallen in love with American names,
The sharp names that never get fat,
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,
The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.

Seine and Piave are silver spoons,
But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,
There are English counties like hunting-tunes
Played on the keys of a postboy's horn,
But I will remember where I was born.

I will remember Carquinez Straits,
Little French Lick and Lundy's Lane,
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.
I will remember Skunktown Plain.

Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard,
Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman's Oast,
It is a magic ghost you guard
But I am sick for a newer ghost,
Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post.

Henry and John were never so
And Henry and John were always right?
Granted, but when it was time to go
And the tea and the laurels had stood all night,
Did they never watch for Nantucket Light?

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

Oh, and go here to see all the lovely poems copperbadge has posted in honour of the 40th Anniversary of the March on Washington, and Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Edit: I removed one verse of the poem because a racially derogatory word is used (Yep, the N word). I thought of leaving it in, and would have, because of the historical context of the poem, as well as a loathing of editing someone else's work, but I didn't want to ever ever offend anyone. I'm not averse to putting the verse back, should I find that nobody minds. I did want to share the beauty of the poem, however.

Comments:


shadowluck at 2003-08-28 22:42 (UTC) ()
Hey, thanks for sharing? Very nice.
robinhoo at 2003-08-29 11:28 (UTC) ()
That's lovely, Prim. You know, I don't think I ever knew where the phrase "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee" came from. Let's hear it for edification! Woohoo!
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
primroseburrows at 2003-08-30 06:55 (UTC) ()
I hadn't known either, until my daughter's class recited it. I got chills. Real ones.
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