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The First and the Last of Everything | The Nation

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The First and the Last of Everything

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The first fine dawn of life on earth
The first cry of Man in the first light
The first firefly flickering at night
The first Noble Savage with the first erection
The first song of love and forty cries of despair
The first voyage of Vikings westward
The first sighting of the New World
                   from the crow’s nest of a Spanish galleon
The first Pale Face meeting the first Native American
The first Dutch trader in Mannahatta
The first settler on the first frontier
The first Home Sweet Home so dear
The first wagon train westward
The first sighting of the Pacific by Lewis & Clark
The first cry of “Mark, twain!” on the Mississippi
The first desegregation by Huck & Jim on a raft at night
The first buffalo-head nickel and the last buffalo
The first barbed-wire fence and the last of the open range
The last cowboy on the last frontier
The first skyscraper in America
The first home run hit at Yankee Stadium
The first ballpark hot dog with mustard
The last War to End All Wars
The last Wobbly and the last Catholic Anarchist
The last living member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
The last bohemian in a beret
The last homespun politician and the first stolen election
The first plane to hit the first Twin Tower
The birth of a vast national paranoia
The first president to become an international criminal
               for crimes against humanity making America a terrorist state
The dark dawn of American corporate fascism
The next-to-last free speech radio
The next-to-last independent newspaper raising hell
The next-to-last independent bookstore with a mind of its own
The next-to-last Lefty looking for Obama Nirvana
The first fine day of the Wall Street Occupation
               to set forth upon this continent a new nation!

Click here to listen to Ferlinghetti read this poem.

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  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti

About the Author

Also by the Author

Great Oracle,why are you staring at me,

do I baffle you, do I make you despair?

I, Americus, the American,

wrought from the dark in my mother long ago,

from the dark of ancient Europa--

Why are you staring at me now

in the dusk of our civilization--

Why are you staring at me

as if I were America itself

the new Empire

far greater than any in ancient days

with its electronic highways

carrying its corporate monoculture

around the world

And English the Latin of our day--

Great Oracle, sleeping through the centuries,

Awaken now at last

And tell us how to save us from ourselves

and how to survive our own rulers

who would make a plutocracy of our democracy

in the Great Divide

between the rich and the poor

in whom Walt Whitman heard America singing

O long-silent Sybil,

You of the winged dreams,

Speak out from your temple of light

as the serious constellations

with Greek names

still stare down on us

as a lighthouse moves its megaphone

over the sea

Speak out and shine upon us

the sea-light of Greece

the diamond light of Greece

Far-seeing Sybil, forever hidden,

Come out of your cave at last

And speak to us in the poet's voice

the voice of the fourth person singular

the voice of the inscrutable future

the voice of the people mixed

with a wild soft laughter--

And give us new dreams to dream,

Give us new myths to live by!


Spoken to the Oracle by the author at UNESCO's World Poetry Day, March 21, at Delphi

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