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.