By Delmore Schwartz
Jeremiah Dickson was a true-blue American,
For he was a little boy who understood America, for he felt that he must
Think about everything; because that’s all there is to think about,
Knowing immediately the intimacy of truth and comedy,
Knowing intuitively how a sense of humor was a necessity
For one and for all who live in America. Thus, natively, and
Naturally when on an April Sunday in an ice cream parlor Jeremiah
Was requested to choose between a chocolate sundae and a banana split
He answered unhesitatingly, having no need to think of it
Being a true-blue American, determined to continue as he began:
Rejecting the either-or of Kierkegaard, and many another European;
Refusing to accept alternatives, refusing to believe the choice of between;
Rejecting selection; denying dilemma; electing absolute affirmation: knowing
in his breast
The infinite and the gold
Of the endless frontier, the deathless West.
“Both: I will have them both!” declared this true-blue American
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, on an April Sunday, instructed
By the great department stores, by the Five-and-Ten,
Taught by Christmas, by the circus, by the vulgarity and grandeur of
Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon,
Tutored by the grandeur, vulgarity, and infinite appetite gratified and
Shining in the darkness, of the light
On Saturdays at the double bills of the moon pictures,
The consummation of the advertisements of the imagination of the light
Which is as it was—the infinite belief in infinite hope—of Columbus,
Barnum, Edison, and Jeremiah Dickson.
Delmore Schwartz, “The True-Blue American” from Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge. Copyright © 1967 by Delmore Schwartz. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.
Source: Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1967)
Born in Brooklyn to Romanian Jewish parents, Delmore Schwartz is a tragic figure—a gifted writer who only fitfully fulfilled his potential before an early death. After the remarkable accomplishment of his first autobiographical poems and stories, which poignantly describe the sensations of childhood and the conflicted aspirations of the intellectual children of immigrants, he lived chaotically and pursued an eccentric career. Schwartz’s decline into paranoia and his lonely demise in a Times Square hotel were fictionalized by his friend Saul Bellow in Humboldt’s Gift (1975), and several of John Berryman’s Dream Songs elegize him.
More By This Poet
Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
Calmly we walk through this April’s day,
Metropolitan poetry here and there,
In the park sit pauper and rentier,
The screaming children, the motor-car
Fugitive about us, running away,
Between the worker and the millionaire
Number provides all distances,
It is Nineteen Thirty-Seven now,
Many great dears are...
More Poems about Mythology & Folklore
It’s true: I almost never
smile, but that doesn’t mean
I’m not in love: my heart
is that black violin
played slowly. You know that
moment late in the solo
when the voice
is so pure you feel
the blood in it: the wound
and complete surrender. That’s
In this dream,
the paths cross
and cross again.
They are spelling
a real boy
out of repetition.
is the one
he must be
about this, but
he can’t feel
and the fisherman,
the fireman and
the ones on fire.
More Poems about Social Commentaries
Vagrants and Loiterers
You got that clean waistcoat,
the bright white of a well-tailored
shirt, you got those loose-as-sacks
slacks and some spit-polished shoes,
and you know, whether you are looking
like money, or about to take a stroll,
to tilt that hat like you own
the world; yeah, smoke...
Back Up Quick They’re Hippies
That was the year we drove
into the commune in Cornwall.
“Jesus Jim,” mam said,
“back up quick they’re hippies.”
Through the car window,
tents, row after row, flaps open,
long-haired men and women
curled around each other like babies
and the babies themselves
wandered naked across the grass.