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)
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