The Anthem

If famous poets had written "The Star-Spangled Banner"

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.
Walt Whitman

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.
Emily Dickinson

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.
Robert Frost

She being brand
New he threw
A flag over h
Er & began
The bombard
Ment & was soon
Rocketing
A (long) & feeling
Braveandfreeand(proudly)perilous
Can you see? Said he
Oui oui, said she
And it was love and it was
Spring and roses and it was
Dawn &
He
B
U
R
S
T
Into song.
E. E. Cummings

This is just to say
I have taken
The flag
That was
Flying

And which
You probably expected
To see
This morning

Forgive me
It was beautiful
So free
And so brave
William Carlos Williams

Up in the night to piss
Saw the flag
Stripes & stars
Reflected in the stream
& in the morning
Still there
Gary Snyder

On the ship, I sit and wait for the dawn
In the midst of the bombs and rockets and so forth,
A prisoner of these British marines who might shoot me,
You never know in a situation like this.

Like so many great moments in history,
You come upon it without meaning to.
You're a lawyer who goes to negotiate for the release of a prisoner
And voilà you become one yourself.

There is this incredibly perilous fight going on
And I suppose a person should be thinking about freedom
Or bravery but I must admit
I would give anything for a cup of coffee right now.

Like a Starbucks made by a girl in a striped blouse,
A latte streaming and gleaming.
But that seems less likely at the moment
Than Betsy Ross doing a striptease, stripe by stripe.

The graceful arc of the rockets, like Don
Larsen's curve ball for the Bronx Bombers.
He was a hero and then suddenly he was gone.
I wonder what's going to happen to that flag.

Somebody could write a poem about this,
Something to mark this whole thing that's going on,
But if they did, probably they shouldn't include
The coffee and the part about Betsy dropping the flag.
Billy Collins

Garrison Keillor is the host of A Prairie Home Companion, on public radio on Saturday nights.
Presented by

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In