America’s Challenge (original, 1961)

I have strength

I’m proud and sometimes stupid                     

but I’m young and big and cocky.

I want to move and grow, but where?

 

My lands are no longer wild,

my forests and mountains and deserts now

no longer tease with mystery and challenge.

My lands are tamed and hogtied with

railroads and highways and air lanes,

bundled up and ready to be sold

ready for people and plumbing and taming.

My mines are all discovered, my fields are cities.

My rivers are dam63ed and trees cut.

Where can I go? What plains and valleys

what forests can ring with my restless youth?

 

I can still fight and go hungry and laugh

I can still swear at my enemy and fight him

with fists and guts and beat him . . .

 

But how long?

Soon I will be bundled by age and fat

tied, held helpless like my tamed land.

Then I won’t be able to fight

maybe I won’t want to fight

maybe my fight and my spirit

will be lying in the dust beside me,

squeezed out like toothpaste from its tube

by the bonds of my land.

 

Let me fight now while I can still feel

while my long lungs can still tingle

with the great air, fresh and big from the open sea

 while my sinew and courage can win

while I can plant my feet in hell

and bump my head on heaven

and stand and strain and struggle

and know I’ll win because my cause

is great and grand and godly against evil

against softness and flabby muscles

and long streets of starving minds and idle hands

 

of bleeding machines and men dehumanized by greed.

 

But most of all against the godless men

who smear my clear vision

and conquer me with caresses.

Let me fight now, lead me to the battle

for the battle will end and I will bring victory

but let me go now.

[Note: A revised version of this poem can be found as a narration

“Freedom’s Call to Action” Below:

       


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