I. What is it that I am doing here
In the fresh green breast of the New World?
What was I thinking when I chose
To land in these shimmering shores?
My shores—white, sandy, palmy shores
Are due South, due where the green
Becomes so lush it can murder
The air so pure it narcotizes
But even on those shores I grew up suckling
On your dream, a milk whiter and richer
Milk thick with promise of mystery and beauty
Milk warm from the last source of wonder.
II. My mother tongue flows out of her mouth
Mellifluously; it drips like milk and honey
Like coffee and sugar, like the golden light of
A southern sunbath, salt waves on white sand
But my words don’t lie on the page languidly—
No, they crash into it, shards of a language of
Unfeeling, a frigid tongue that makes my mouth
Taste tart. I can’t overcome the bitterness,
The acerbity of abandonment, the self-exile
The years spent among harsh consonants
That forced me into handshakes instead of kisses—
Idiom, insidious imperialist.
III. A boy walks down the golden street, his father
Doesn’t look back at him. He waves his arms
Around, stops; he doesn’t look back either.
I almost bump into him. That boy is America—
A child grown too fast, its body mighty
And its mind feeble, a boy Atlas carrying
The weight of the whole world on shoulders
That don’t understand they can’t shrug
The boy Atlas is America is you—infant
Imperialist, you god of vast carelessness
You god who smashes up the world that
Cleans up the mess you’ve made.