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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.

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