Another summer! Our Independence


Day Parade, all innocence


of children's costumes, helps resist


the communist and socialist.


Five nations: Dutch, French, Englishmen,


Indians, and we, who held Castine,


rise from their graves in combat gear—


world-losers elsewhere, conquerors here!

Civil Rights clergy face again


the scions of the good old strain,


the poor who always must remain


poor and Republicans in Maine,


upholders of the American Dream,


who will not sink and cannot swim—


O Emersonian self-reliance,


O lethargy of Russian peasants!

High noon. Each child has won his blue,


red, yellow ribbon, and our statue,


a dandyish Union Soldier, sees


his fields reclaimed by views and spruce—


he seems a convert to old age,


small, callous, elbowed off the stage,


while the canned martial music fades


from scene and green—no more parades!

Blue twinges of mortality


remind us the theocracy


drove in its stakes here to command


the infinite, and gave this land


a ministry that would have made


short work of Christ, the Son of God,


and then exchanged His crucifix,


hardly our sign, for politics.

This white Colonial frame house,


willed downward, Dear, from you to us,


still matters, the Americas'


best artifact produced en masse.


The founders' faith was in decay,


and yet their building seems to say:


"O every time I take a breath,


My God you are the air I breathe."

New England, everywhere I look,


old letters crumble from the Book,


China trade rubble, one more line


unraveling from the dark design


spun by God and Cotton Mather—


our bel età dell' oro, another


bright thing thinner than a cobweb,


caught in Calvinism's ebb.

Dear Cousin, life is much the same,


though only fossils know your name


here since you left this solitude,


gone, as the Christians say, for good.


Your house, still outwardly in form


lasts, though no emissary come


to watch the garden running down,


or photograph the propped-up barn.

If memory is genius, you


had Homer's, enough gossip to


repeople Trollope's Barchester,


nurse, negro, diplomat, down-easter,


cousins kept up with, nipped, corrected,


kindly, majorfully directed,


though family furniture, decor,


and rooms redone meant almost more.

How often when the telephone


brought you to us from Washington,


we had to look around the room


to find the objects you would name—


lying there, ten years paralyzed,


half blind, no voice unrecognized,


not trusting in the afterlife,


teasing us for a carving knife.

O high New England summer, warm


and fortified against the storm


by nightly nips you once adored,


though never going overboard,


Harriet, when you used to play


your chosen Nadia Boulanger


Monteverdi, Purcell, and Bach's


precursors on the Magnavox.

Blue-ribboned, blue-jeaned, named for you,


our daughter cartwheels on the blue—


may your proportion strengthen her


to live through the millennial year


Two Thousand, and like you possess


friends, independence, and a house,


herself God's plenty, mistress of


your tireless sedentary love.

Her two angora guinea pigs


are nibbling seed, the news, and twigs—


untroubled, petrified, atremble,


a mother and her daughter, humble,


giving, idle and sensitive.


Few animals will let them live.


Only a vegetarian God


could look on them and call them good.

Man's poorest cousins, harmonies


of lust and appetite and ease,


little pacific things, who graze


the grass about their box, they praise


whatever stupor gave them breath


to multiply before their death—


Evolution's snails, by birth,


outrunning man who runs the earth.

And now the frosted summer night-dew


brightens, the north wind rushes through


your ailing cedars, finds the gaps;


thumbtacks rattle from the white maps,


food's lost sight of, dinner waits,


in the cold oven, icy plates—


repeating and repeating, one


Joan Baez on the gramophone.

And here in your converted barn,


we burn our hands a moment, borne


by energies that never tire


of piling fuel on the fire;


monologue that will not hear,


logic turning its deaf ear,


wild spirits and old sores in league


with inexhaustible fatigue.

Far off that time of gentleness,


when man, still licensed to increase,


unfallen and unmated, heard


only the uncreated Word—


when God the Logos still had wit


to hide his bloody hands, and sit


in silence, while His peace was sung.


Then the universe was young.

We watch the logs fall. Fire once gone,


we're done for: we escape the sun,


rising and setting, a red coal,


until it cinders like the soul.


Great ash and sun of freedom, give


us this day the warmth to live,


and face the household fire. We turn


our backs, and feel the whiskey burn.