America is Still: an erasure exercise

America, as Whitman wrote,
is fading low;
her heartbeat, a sour note.
Her voice blows sadness,
and one can hear her weep.
Her voice
resonates inside the bones,
reminding of truth,
your own.
Her war machines
bustle
songs of might.
Her technologies
keep hope alive
of should or could.

Across the age
times are lean,
radios
echo songs that
America still sings,
songs
sadly led astray by fools
who sing as others do.
America, they cry,
’tis treason to
keep this deadly pace;
grey and die.

And a dirge
echoes in the
Music
as hope sickens and
each
tune is fading.

The lifeforce beats strong
out in the wild;
but urban adult and child
recognize the rhythm is wrong.
The arteries swell
the weary head;
circulation is
sent off-course.
While doctors
sing of operations yet untried,
freedom varies;
avoiding blame,
they sew prejudice inside,
and her heartbeat is slow.

Who are the great?
What works?
The grand and strange,
is the rage.

Her story must be
in jokes
to be
the common folk,
America’s juke-box
hit parade, unsung,
memorized by rote;
her Music faded,
the piano
a frequent sour note
and her song of hope,
a new way
will join the fray,
and fight for dignity
but her
vulgar selfish lot
enter the ring
to entertain
yet she cheers,
hoping their valor will prevail,
the cause will win.

America sings a
song of travail;
Her voice shouting in the wind.
Out in the night
ploughmen
turn this great gold
and reap nature’s plight.
This diversity of
income
can
pay the cost.
She sings for
for the forlorn,
crying out in pain,
that still defy
the song that sells the future.
Where triumphs and ideals
spurned a nation to believe,
to grieve -
and turn the wheel.

With funeral songs
she celebrates
memory gone wrong,
the dregs of misery.
Those who listen
with deaf ears -
faces in the rain,
are called deranged,
and must abandon careers;
there is a sadness.

She cries out for the
sculptor and newsboy;
they pursue another dream,
and silence is the song.
In that chasm her dreams
heed and follow
in shadows,
with strength to give.
Before the dawn, some fools
grasp at them before
drink the mead that fills,
in spite of
others’ dreams, cheaply made
now and again.

26 APR 2013

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was creating an erasure, in essence a rewrite of a longer poem by eliminating words or even whole sentences from the original resulting in a new and potentially drastically different poem, in both form and meaning. While this kind of exercise is often done using a “famous” long poem, like “Howl” or “The Raven”, “Evangeline” or “Paradise Lost”, I decided to apply this idea to one of my own longer poems, an envelope sonnet inspired by Whitman and intended as a song of hope. The original can be found here: America is Still Singing: an envelope sonnet. The result, I think, is not so hopeful and slightly more dire in its outlook. Maybe.

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