Here on the shore of Baltimore observing the barrage of rockets and bombs from the man o' war,
The gunnery mates stripp'd to the waist and glistening with sweat,
Shouting each to the other and working together in close drill,
Ramming the powder charge and then the enormous projectile,
Each of them a man like myself and possessed of secret longings,
Each of them comely and well-appointed,
Especially the tall one on the left with black curls and taut abdominal muscles,
Who looks so long and lovingly at me, a stranger in big boots,
And I return his gaze—O aficionado, come, take my hand—
Leave your cannonading and we shall travel the open road
Where there are no banners except of affection and the love of dear comrades.
The Banner—that we watched in Air
So Proudly as it Gleamed
Was Proven by the Rocket Glare
Or so to us it Seemed—
And so we waited for the Dawn
To see if it still flew
Or if—in Tatters—it is Gone—
As happened once—with You.
I woke up—at the Matin Bell—
A vast and empty Bed—
The Pillow bore—the slightest smell
Of Oil—from your Head.
A fleeting Phantasy—perhaps—
The Ghost of—Not To Be—
And Postmen—in their Crimson Caps—
Aim their Artillery.
Whose flag this is I think I know
His house is being bombed now though
He will not see that I have come
To watch the twilight's ebbing glow.
My little horse must think it dumb,
The cannons' pandemonium,
The rockets bursting in the air,
The sound of bugle, fife, and drum,
He turns and shakes his derrière
To show me that he doesn't care
Who takes this battle flag or why,
When in the redness of the glare
I see the banner flying high
Through the tumult in the sky
And, knowing all is now okay,
We walk away, my horse and I.
The flag is lovely, hip hooray,
But I have things to do today,
Some here and others far away,
Before I stop to hit the hay.