September 9, 2011

A Labor Day Lament, Version 2

I indicated that my poem “A Labor Day Lament” was only a first draft. I have been thinking about the poem since I posted it on Labor Day, and I am now ready to offer a second—and perhaps final—draft,  Although I tried to regularize the meter, certain constraints make that difficult. Being less regular, the poem is probably more interesting, but it is also more difficult to set to music.

Most of the changes I made were for aesthetic reasons, but my version 2 is also a bit angrier and employs more us-and-them imagery. The most conspicuous changes are in the antepenultimate stanza and in the refrain.

What do you think? Is this an improvement? Is it done yet?

A Labor Day Lament


With bosses making millions,
And millions unemployed,
Hapless workers, by the millions,
Have had their dreams destroyed.
America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages,
Where the hell did you go wrong?
We look for Christian charity,
For pity toward the poor;
We find instead indifference
And the rich demanding more.
Pollution from their smokestacks
The breath of infants robs;
They say that regulations
Will only kill our jobs.
America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages,
Where the hell did you go wrong?
Our politicians ponder
How to fool the average Joe
Into thinking every problem
Can be solved by saying “no.”
For wrecking our prosperity,
No bankers went to jail;
They’d rather crush the middle class
Than let a big bank fail.
America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages,
Where the hell did you go wrong?
Corporations are just people
In somewhat different guise,
So judges gave them license
To feed us all their lies.

The unions are retreating;
Their time, it’s said, is gone;
Amidst our countless troubles,
Tell me, which side are you on?

America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages,
Where the hell did you go wrong?

Update: A friend suggested some changes, so I took the liberty of making them above, rather than creating a Version 3 post.

Update, 9/16/2011: What I expect is the final version of my poem is now available on my Web site here.

5 comments:

  1. Peter,

    Sorry to hear that. Can you be more specific?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't care for the "where the hell" change. Just a little bit crass, in a work that is otherwise elegant, on a subject that is melancholy, at best.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Peter,

    Your point is well taken, and I was unsure about “where the hell.” I will consider going back to the original line or something like it.

    Do you have any other objections to this version?

    ReplyDelete
  4. None whatsoever. This whole poem brings into focus what is truly going on, under our own eyes, and yet we choose to ignore it. THAT is an arrogant act committed by a nation asleep (or seduced by the murmur of the radio, or the eroticism of sleeping with big business ), for which our country should expect no favors.

    ReplyDelete

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