[American Journal]

Robert Hayden

 
here among them     the americans     this baffling
multi people     extremes and variegations     their
noise     restlessness     their almost frightening
energy     how best describe these aliens in my
reports to The Counselors
disguise myself in order to study them unobserved
adapting their varied pigmentations     white black
red brown yellow     the imprecise and strangering
distinctions by which they live     by which they
justify their cruelties to one another
charming savages     enlightened primitives     brash
new comers lately sprung up in our galaxy     how
describe them     do they indeed know what or who
they are     do not seem to     yet no other beings
in the universe make more extravagant claims
for their importance and identity
like us they have created a veritable populace
of machines that serve and soothe and pamper
and entertain     we have seen their flags and
foot prints on the moon     also the intricate
rubbish left behind     a wastefully ingenious
people     many it appears worship the Unknowable
Essence     the same for them as for us     but are
more faithful to their machine made gods
technologists their shamans
oceans deserts mountains grain fields canyons
forests     variousness of landscapes weathers
sun light moon light as at home     much here is
beautiful     dream like vistas reminding me of  
home     item     have seen the rock place known
as garden of the gods and sacred to the first
indigenes     red monoliths of home     despite
the tensions i breath in i am attracted to
the vigorous americans     disturbing sensuous
appeal of so many     never to be admitted
something they call the american dream     sure
we still believe in it i guess     an earth man
in the tavern said     irregardless of the some
times night mare facts we always try to double
talk our way around     and its okay the dreams
okay and means whats good could be a damn sight
better     means every body in the good old u s a
should have the chance to get ahead or at least
should have three squares a day     as for myself
i do okay     not crying hunger with a loaf of
bread tucked under my arm you understand     i
fear one does not clearly follow i replied
notice you got a funny accent pal     like where
you from he asked     far from here i mumbled
he stared hard     i left
must be more careful     item     learn to use okay
their pass word     okay
crowds gathering in the streets today for some
reason obscure to me     noise and violent motion
repulsive physical contact     sentinels     pigs
i heard them called     with flailing clubs     rage
and bleeding and frenzy and screaming     machines
wailing     unbearable decibels     i fled lest
vibrations of the brutal scene do further harm
to my metabolism already over taxed
The Counselors would never permit such barbarous
confusion     they know what is best for our sereni
ty     we are an ancient race and have outgrown
illusions cherished here     item     their vaunted
liberty     no body pushes me around i have heard
them say     land of the free they sing     what do
they fear mistrust betray more than the freedom
they boast of in their ignorant pride     have seen
the squalid ghettoes in their violent cities
paradox on paradox     how have the americans
managed to survive
parades fireworks displays video spectacles
much grandiloquence much buying and selling
they are celebrating their history     earth men
in antique uniforms play at the carnage whereby
the americans achieved identity     we too recall
that struggle as enterprise of suffering and
faith uniquely theirs     blonde miss teen age
america waving from a red white and blue flower
float as the goddess of liberty     a divided
people seeking reassurance from a past few under
stand and many scorn     why should we sanction
old hypocrisies     thus dissenters     The Counse
lors would silence them
a decadent people The Counselors believe     i
do not find them decadent     a refutation not
permitted me    but for all their knowledge
power and inventiveness not yet more than raw
crude neophytes like earthlings everywhere
though i have easily passed for an american     in
bankers grey afro and dashiki long hair and jeans
hard hat yarmulka mini skirt     describe in some
detail for the amusement of The Counselors     and
though my skill in mimicry is impeccable     as
indeed The Counselors are aware     some thing
eludes me     some constant amid the variables
defies analysis and imitation     will i be judged
incompetent
america     as much a problem in metaphysics as
it is a nation earthly entity an iota in our
galaxy     an organism that changes even as i
examine it     fact and fantasy never twice the
same     so many variables
exert greater caution     twice have aroused
suspicion     returned to the ship until rumors
of humanoids from outer space     so their scoff
ing media voices termed us     had been laughed
away     my crew and i laughed too of course
confess i am curiously drawn     unmentionable     to
the americans     doubt i could exist among them for
long however     psychic demands far too severe
much violence     much that repels     i am attracted
none the less     their variousness their ingenuity
their elan vital     and that some thing     essence
quiddity     i cannot penetrate or name
 
Copyright © 1978, 1982 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Poems by This Author

Soledad by Robert Hayden
Naked, he lies in the blinded room
Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early


Further Reading

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By Night with Torch and Spear
by Timothy Donnelly
Poems About Aliens
Taken Up
by Charles Martin
The Abduction
by Stanley Kunitz
The Alien
by Greg Delanty
The White Fires of Venus
by Denis Johnson