By Louis Simpson
A siren sang, and Europe turned away
From the high castle and the shepherd’s crook.
Three caravels went sailing to Cathay
On the strange ocean, and the captains shook
Their banners out across the Mexique Bay.
And in our early days we did the same.
Remembering our fathers in their wreck
We crossed the sea from Palos where they came
And saw, enormous to the little deck,
A shore in silence waiting for a name.
The treasures of Cathay were never found.
In this America, this wilderness
Where the axe echoes with a lonely sound,
The generations labor to possess
And grave by grave we civilize the ground.
Louis Simpson, “To the Western World” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
Source: Collected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1988)
More By This Poet
My Father in the Night Commanding No
My father in the night commanding No
Has work to do. Smoke issues from his lips;
He reads in silence.
The frogs are croaking and the street lamps glow.
And then my mother winds the gramophone;
The Bride of Lammermoor begins to shriek—
Or reads a...
On the Lawn at the Villa
On the lawn at the villa—
That’s the way to start, eh, reader?
We know where we stand—somewhere expensive—
You and I imperturbes, as Walt would say,
Before the diversions of wealth, you and I engagés.
On the lawn at the villa
Sat a manufacturer of...
More Poems about Social Commentaries
When I say But mother, Black or not Black,
Of course you are polyethnic, your look does not change
Though it does harden, a drying clay bust
Abandoned or deliberately incomplete,
All the features carved in
Except the eyes. What I’m trying—
I mean—You are an...
How to Triumph Like a Girl
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest,...