Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
26 January 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:27pm

I Hear America Sighing (after Walt Whitman)

A new poem by Roger McGough.

By Roger McGough

I hear America sighing, the varied complaints I hear.
Those of mechanics each one bemoaning his as he walks away
from the shutdown factory. The carpenter bewailing his
as he boards up another broken shop window. The matron
in the hospital barking hers, harking back to the days of Obama.
The boatmen lamenting theirs, nets full of plastic bags and bottles.
The celebrity tweeting hers about the intrusion of privacy.
The banker howling his like the ghost of a wolf on Wall Street.
The shoemaker grumbling his as his son buys another pair
of Adidas trainers. The belly-aching of the blame-throwers.
The keening chorus of mothers grieving for murdered sons.
Each crying what belongs to him or her and to no one else.

America, I grew up with you, you my brash elder brother,
Super hero, singing in the rain from the Halls of Montezuma
to the shores of Tripoli, from the sands of Iwo Jima to
A Coney Island of the mind. Star-spangled romantic,
laconic wise-cracker, go-getter, no sooner said than done.
Now the wisdom, has it cracked, the getting, has it gone?
The stars have dimmed, no moon ahead. Oh, say!
Can you dance by the light of the rocket’s red glare?
Flags furled, insults hurled, banners waved in anger.
In Times Square the wind moans, and all around the sound
of groaning, the earth trembling as the screen fades to black.
Stop sighing America, start singing. Time to come back.

Roger McGough is the president of the Poetry Society and presents the BBC Radio 4 programme Poetry Please.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting small businesses – Liz Truss must act
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs

This article appears in the 24 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, How women took power