“With a heavy dose of fear and violence
and a lot of money for projects
I think we can convince these people
that we are here to help them,”
Colonel Sassaman said.
Here at last are all the elements
of a truly American poem.
Note the subtle use of irony
like Melville’s, to evert received
moral concepts and beliefs,
and the piling on of images, the way
old Walt did—not just a dose
but a heavy dose of f. and v.,
and medical imagery like
a dose of Doc Williams,
and the contemptuous attitude
toward money—very beat,
and the epithetic “these people”—
so very Southern Agrarian,
and the downright Jeffersonian, Whitmanian
desire to help them create democracy.
There are, or course, elements
of American life that are here
omitted, but no work of art
can be all-encompassing.