Dugan’s Last Poems

I must admit I was beginning to tire a bit of Dugan’s Poems Seven by the time I finally finished it. Luckily, the last section entered some new areas, and Dugan’s sense of humor came to the fore, probably because by the time you reach eighty that’s about all you have left.

I seriously thought about citing a poem called “Another Cat Poem, To a Cat Person” but reconsidered when I recalled I still might need to ask for some technical assistance on updating my site.

Besides, this poem seems to have a more universal appeal and provides a cleaner answer to those who argue that America was founded on fundamental Christian principles:

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CORN IN AMERICAN HISTORY

After the Puritans landed at Provincetown
and the women washed their dirty clothes
their men marched to Truro to perform
their first political act: theft.
They stole the Indians' corn
buried on Corn Hill, so why
is there no monument to them
or corn on Corn Hill in Truro?
For the same reason that there is no
working laundry in Provincetown:
Cleanliness is next to godliness,
thievery is next to Americanness,
and we must not publicize
that this country was made
by a bunch of dirty crooks.

I wish I’d found this poem while I was still teaching American Lit; I would have introduced it during that boring, beginning section when the texts introduced Puritan “literature,” which consisted almost solely of sermons and self-serving diaries.

I’m sure most students wouldn’t even recognize this as “poetry,” since it seems so different from what’s usually taught as poetry. In retrospect, this poem reminds me more of the Beat poets than traditional American poets. There’s an immediacy and grittiness usually lacking in popular poetry that can be found throughout Dugan’s poetry. It often seems to offer gnomic truths reminiscent of Emerson or Thoreau’s aphorisms, but, unfortunately, it lacks the rhythm and power that made Whitman’s re-statement of the same ideas unforgettable.

What do you think?