The Killers: A Short Introduction to American History

THE pattern in general is red and black,
The red for blood and the black for law,
Each good according to whose it is.
Coming, they killed whatever they saw
Or captured for curiosities.
The bears were black and the men were red
And red the women and girls and boys.
They killed them all, or nearly all.
The song of the arrow and musket-ball
Filled the years with a sighing noise.
The bear, the deer, the wolf, the boar,
The bison, the fox, the turkey, the duck,
The dark-skinned women and girls; till sore
And beaten, at last the land said yes.
And thus across the bloody years
Ended the work of the pioneers.
So the land said yes. And they killed the trees,
The grass, the grass-roots, the soil itself.
They dirtied the rivers and dried the streams
That had mirrored too many early dreams.
Men who go and kill where they please,
Who use what they own for power and pelf,
Forget that the earth will ask redress.
They took what the earth had made of old,
The copper and silver and iron and oil,
The coal and the innermost streak of gold,
And rotted the ground with the blood of toil.
For men who own and use what they please
Use their own people like enemies.
First they bought them and then they sold
And for the rest they crushed their hearts.
The deepest and bitterest draught in the cup:
Men are the last to be used up.
After the earth is long subdued
Man will remain to be man’s food.