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I Hear America Crying

*Illustration reference: Photograph of Walt Whitman

c. 1891 (negative); printed later

Attributed to Thomas Eakins (American, 1844–1916)

I hear America crying, the strained anguish I hear

The heartache of a woman, the hard fist coming

She who was once blithe and strong

The belaboured teacher, the harried lecturer

Pierced by rebuke of oppression’s prong

The proud immigrant laments, the hateful rhetoric cements

The war veteran’s fight undone, wrecked what their sacrifice won

Youth, once the idolized ideal, the incentive, the dears we held dear

We, the provider, the cautious chider, live with constant fear

They be cut down in lessons, our prized possessions, cowering in closets

While the legislator, the fixed law-makers, dither, prattle and posit

The relentless crying, untold dying, the will, once sure, demoralized

Each mourning what belonged to them, and to no one else

The day that dawned, won’t be restrained, the western sun, now loathe to rise

Crying, open-mouthed, rueful for what once was our better self…

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