Heart of my country—paradox and pearl—
Where cherry trees paste snow against the sky
In spring, where the stone monolith projects
Into the humid, choking nights of summer,
Where autumn burns the leaves, and rain
Drops on the vacant benches by the river,
Where winter brings the Appalachian cold—
Here you receive the kit and the caboodle,
The sweepers who clean up your boulevards,
The Texans and the Oregonians,
A Moslem mosque, a national art museum,
Buildings for bureaucrats, and slums
Within the sight of palaces and parks.

How many casks of wine have emptied here?
How many tons of feces fill your sewers?
How many hansoms, hacks and Cadillacs have run
Between the Mayflower and your seats of power?
How many secrets have you filed away?
How many murders fill your calendar?
How many generals curse your tarnished name?
How many widows weep within your shrines?

Your traffic thickens and coagulates,
Your landscape fills with cheap, depressing homes.
Your streets become less safe to walk at night.
Sociable ladies leave the house with fright
Because your two-bit hoodlums and thugs
Have given some the shake-up of their lives.
A filibuster threatens in the senate,
Civil servants plow through paper piles,
Children gape bored at Lincoln’s stony form,
A tan-skinned teacher leads the “Frêre Jacques,”
The airplanes hover waiting turn to land,
The pigeons indiscreetly line the wires.

Heart of my country, when the cherry trees,
The choking summer nights, the burning leaves,
The anachronistic mid-December warmth
And the long-accustomed mid-December cold
Bring back your infinite variety,
Pierre L’Enfant’s beginning and your climb
Into the center of the world’s dominion,
I hear a Voice above the voice of armies,
Softer than rippling water, full of might,
Higher than by a million monoliths,
Stronger than by a universal fission.
It covers every edifice of pride,
It drowns the meaningless babbling of your sins,
It levels all your knowledge in the dust,
It speaks to you Its deep eternal silence
Through cherry trees, through trees against the sky,
Through the humid, choking nights, the nights of summer,
Through the burning leaves, the burning leaves of autumn,
Through the vacant benches in the winter cold.

Copyright 2008 © George Edward McDonough.  All rights reserved.

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