America is Still Singing: an envelope sonnet

America still sings, as Whitman wrote,
but often-times the tune is fading low;
and her heartbeat, not stopped, is often slow,
causing a frequent skip, or sour note.

Her voice is cracked from shouting in the wind
of change that blows across her fertile plain;
there is a sadness, now, in her refrain,
and one can hear her weep, now and again.

But still she sings, and those who hear her voice
can never turn away and listen not;
it resonates inside the mind, and bones,

reminding each that hears it of the choice:
to yearn for truth, though others seek it not,
and hearing other’s songs, to sing your own.

Her laborers still tarry in the night
To build her war machines and tools of trade,
and in the bustle, softer Music fades
while emphasis is placed on songs of might.

Her engineers and scientists, they strive
to harness new technologies for “good”;
while in the alleys, some keep hope alive
by singing not of should, or ought, but could.

Across the superhighways, through the land,
The Music of the age calls out “progress”,
and though the times are lean, promises bloat;

While radios repeat the program’s plan,
and echo songs that we trust, more or less;
America still sings, as Whitman wrote.

And where are those whose songs are fresh and new?
Are they found in our colleges and schools?
Quite sadly, they are led astray by fools
who teach that we must sing as others do.

America is in the lead, they cry,
’tis treason now to relinquish our place;
while those who cannot keep this deadly pace
are disregarded, left to grey and die.

And so a dirge seeps through the hallowed halls,
and echoes in the souls of each young heart;
You still can hear the Music as you go

as the bright light of hope sickens and palls;
We learn to sing, and each must learn their part
but often-times, the tune is fading low.

The lifeforce of the nation still beats strong
If you can check the pulse out in the wild;
But in her urban heart, adult and child
Oft recognize the rhythm is all wrong.

The arteries still swell and pump with force
to animate the weary limbs and head;
but often circulation is misled
and energy diluted, sent off-course.

While her great doctors bicker and consult
and sing of operations yet untried
the blood of freedom varies in its flow;

while carefully avoiding blame or fault,
they sew their prejudice and taint inside,
and her heartbeat, not stopped, is often slow.

And who are the great players on her stage?
And what great works are written for her range?
Alas, they focus on the grand and strange,
for style, no longer substance, is the rage.

Her story must be told in ways that please,
in strong, heroic ballads and in jokes;
While what to be remains a mystery,
and so eludes the common, simple folk.

America’s juke-box is old and worn,
and on its hit parade, its tunes unsung,
except those that are memorized by rote;

her sheet Music is faded out and torn,
and the piano often stays unstrung,
Causing a frequent skip, or sour note.

And still she sings, her song of hope and youth,
of promise for a new and better way;
Despite the danger, she will join the fray,
and fight for dignity, and peace and truth.

But her great pugilists are dead and gone,
and in their place, a vulgar selfish lot –
who enter in the ring just for the pot,
and fight to entertain the fickle throng.

Yet ringside, she applauds and cheers their cause,
still hoping that their valour will prevail,
believing that the righteous cause will win.

America sings on without a pause,
and cries her song of hope in this travail;
Her voice is cracked from shouting in the wind.

Out in the fields, she watches through the night
as ploughmen thresh the land to make her bread;
while alchemists turn this great gold to lead,
and reap their profits, scorning nature’s plight.

This grand diversity of sea and earth,
is reckoned by its income, gained or lost;
while she alone can recognize its worth,
and they abandon her to pay the cost.

She sings for those who have no voice to cry,
for they among the cast-off and forlorn,
who hear the land now crying out in pain,

that form a part of her land and still defy
the song that sells the future, yet unborn,
of change that blows across her fertile plain.

Where once she sang of triumphs and ideals
that spurned a still young nation to believe,
America now knows only to grieve –
and turns a sorrowed shoulder to the wheel.

With dirges, eulogies and funeral songs
she celebrates the past and history,
in memory of destiny gone wrong,
and wallows in the dregs of misery.

While those who listen closely note the change
Her newest poets hear, but with deaf ears –
Their sallow faces melting in the rain;

And those fight this fate are called deranged,
And must abandon artistic careers;
there is a sadness, now, in her refrain.

She cries out for the lumberjack and smith,
For farmer, woodsman, sculptor and newsboy;
But they pursue another dream of joy,
And silence is the song they leave her with.

In that dark chasm where her dreams still live
They heed her voice and follow where she leads;
And in those shadows, inspiration breeds
A hearty nation, one with strength to give.

Before the dawn, her dreams still reach some fools
Who grasp at them before they blur and fade
To drink the mead that fills real vision’s pen,

Who learn to live, in spite of blinded rules;
She watches others’ dreams, more cheaply made
and one can hear her weep, now and again.

02 DEC 2002

for Walt Whitman

A sonnet redoubled is a series of fifteen sonnets. Each of the second through fifteen sonnets takes as its last line a successive line from the first sonnet, which serves as the texte.

Obviously, this is work in progress. This portion includes only sonnets one through seven (1 – 9). The remaining sonnets are forthcoming. Stay tuned.

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One response to “America is Still Singing: an envelope sonnet

  1. Pingback: America is Still: an erasure exercise |

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