Whitman sang a song of himself, self-publishing
grassy leaves and setting the world aflame.
Emerson was an elite word-player, looking for meaning
without getting muddy. Hawthorne wrote political lies
for Jimmy Polk’s imperial invasion of Mexico.
Thoreau, at least, was jailed for not paying taxes.
(His mother paid them the very next day!)
Me? I’m a happy reprobate—bowing humbly
to the old Latinate: ‘one who reproves’—
carping with hot consternation at those who,
with blind and blinkered eyes, trail after evil’s
easy, please-y morsels, spending more at Starbucks
daily than many elsewhere have for food.
I’ve no pretensions—I’m not a Whitman, an Emerson, or a Thoreau;
I’m certainly not an old Nate Hawthorne.
I’m a tired grunt Marine from the American war
in Vietnam, lugging my frayed bulging rucksack
over hither and yon, planting anti-war apple seeds
deep in the dirt called America.
I hate that I went to war for you. It ruined my life.
After more than 40 years of wandering the American wilderness …
I’ve reached these sad conclusions, my friend:
I was willing to physically give up my life for you.
I was naïve and full of teenage hubris.
Now I know … You don’t deserve my sacrifice.
Every adult around me encouraged me in my delusion,
or, if they had doubts, did not counsel me from my moral certainty.
You were willing and complicit that I should throw my life away.
Now I know … You don’t deserve the sacrifice of others.
You are unconscionably ignorant of the military history of your own country,
of its lies and deceits, of its wars of racist atrocities,
its strivings for empires to bloat the rich and the bigoted.
Now I know … You don’t deserve those who have fought for you.
Your myth of exceptionalism—we ‘Americans’ are sine qua non
on the face of the earth—is nothing but night dirt,
built upon the hard fact of flagrantly schooled self-deception.
Now I know … You don’t deserve those who have done your killing.
You are immorally ignorant of how your soldiers step arrogantly
onto foreign soil. You train them to disdain everything indigenous,
killing first and asking/answering questions only if forced.
Now I know … You don’t deserve those who have died for you.
I rue this country. I rue this culture.
Don’t you dare be surprised by my anger.
Copyright Tim Bagwell