‘Pearl Harbor’ (Jeffers)


Here are the fireworks. The men who conspired
            and labored
To embroil this republic in the wreck of Europe have got
            their bargain –
And a bushel more. As for me, what can I do but fly the
            national flag from the top of the tower?
America has neither race nor religion nor its own lan-
            guage: nation or nothing.
                                                            Stare, little tower,
Confidently across the Pacific, the flag on your head. I
            built you at the other war’s end,
And the sick peace; I based you on living rock, granite
            on granite; I said, “Look, you gray stones:
Civilization is sick; stand awhile and be quiet and drink
            the sea-wind, you will survive
                       But now I am old, and O stones be modest.
            Look, little tower:
This dust blowing is only the British Empire; these torn
            leaves flying
Are only Europe; the wind is the plane-propellers;
            the smoke is Tokyo. The child with the butchered
Was too young to be named. Look no further ahead.


The war that we have carefully for years provoked
Catches us unprepared, amazed and indignant. Our war-
            ships are shot
Like sitting ducks and our planes like nest-birds, both our
            coasts ridiculously panicked,
And our leaders make orations. This is the people
That hopes to impose on the whole planetary world
An American peace.
                                      (Oh, we’ll not lose our war: my
            money on amazed Gulliver
And his horse-pistols.)
                                           Meanwhile our prudent officers
Have cleared the coast-long ocean of ships and fishing-
            craft, the sky of planes, the windows of light:
            these clearings
Make a great beauty. Watch the wide sea; there is noth-
            ing human; its gulls have it. Watch the wide sky
All day clean of machines; only at dawn and dusk one
            military hawk passes
High on patrol. Walk at night in the black-out,
The firefly lights that used to line the long shore
Are all struck dumb; shut are the shops, mouse-dark the
            houses. Here the prehuman dignity of night
Stands, as it was before and will be again. O beautiful
Darkness and silence, the two eyes that see God; great
            staring eyes.

— Robinson Jeffers (published 1948)

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