Harriet Monroe, ed. (18601936). Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 191222.
Song of Stephen the Westerner
By Sherwood Anderson
From Mid-American Songs
I AM of the West, out of the land, out of the velvety creeping and straining. I have resolved. I have been born like a wind. I come sweating and steaming out of the cornrows.
Deep in the corn I lay, ages and ages, folded and broken, old and benumbed. My mother the black ground suckled me. When I was strong I builded a house facing the east. The hair on my arm was like the long grass by the edge of the forests.
Behold, I am one who has been building a house and driving nails with stones that break. The hammer of song has been given me. I am one with the old gods, an American from Dakota, from the deep valley of the Mississippi, from Illinois, from Iowa, from Ohio.
Would you know what has befallen? In my warm ignorance I lay dead in the corn rows. On the wind came rumors and cries. I squirmed and writhed. I was frightened and wept. My fathers emerged from the corn and killed each other in battle.
I am a man come into the city of men out of the mouth of the long house. Hear the wind in the caves of the hills! My strength is terrible. I stand in the streets and shout. My children are as the dust of city streets for numbers. I am so small men do not see me. So tiny am I that I walk on the ball of your eye.
In the long house at evening the old things were sweet. The nuts and the raisins lay deep on the tables. The women cut white bread with long knives. They hid the sweets of their bodies with clothes. They knew old things but had forgotten old singers.
On the straw in the stables sat Enid the maker of harness. Beside him sat old men. Long we lay listening and listening. On their haunches they sat and talked of old gods. Above the sound of the tramping of the hoofs of the horses arose always the voices of old men.
Now, my beloved, I have fallen down from my horse. I have returned to kill my beloved on the threshing floor. My throat is sore with the dust of new cities. The voices of new men shake the drums of my ears. I await long in the darkness the sweet voice of old things, but the new death has put its hand into mine. I have killed my beloved in the place of the deep straw and cast her away.
I am of the West, out of the land, out of the velvety creeping and straining. It is day and I stand raw and new by the coal heaps. I go into the place of darkness at the beginning of the new house. I shall build my house with great hammers. New song is tearing the cords of my throat. I am become a man covered with dust. I have kissed the black hands of new brothers and cannot return to bury my beloved at the door of the long house.