July the Fourth, 2009

by Derrick G. Jeter

Edgar A. Guest was a great American poet, though most have never heard of him. He failed to reach the fame of Walt Whitman or Robert Frost, but his gift of capturing the American spirit in simple yet profound language rivals the artistry of those two great writers. Guest, more than any other, has become my favorite poet.

In 1918, at the height of the First World War, Guest published a series of patriotic poems entitled Over Here. The book was republished in 1922, after the war, and included five additional poems not previously published. This newer work was entitled Poems of Patriotism. Guest has served as an absent mentor but ever present inspiration to my own poor attempts at writing poetry—two of which follow. Both poems are patriotic, celebrating the Fourth of July. The first one, “America for Freedom Speaks,” is based on the closing line of Guest’s poem, “July the Fourth, 1917.”

Here is my attempt at two Guest-like poems in celebration of America’s Day of Freedom. I submit them with apologies to my readers.

America for Freedom Speaks

America, her boys are slain,

While others wax and wane;

To answer slavery’s shrieks—

America for freedom speaks.

America, her song you’ll hear,

While others cower in fear;

To heed the mildest squeaks—

America for freedom speaks.

America, her glory best,

While others fail the test;

To dry tear stained cheeks—

America for freedom speaks.

America, her patriot’s song,

While others ask how long;

To uphold what liberty seeks—

America for freedom speaks.

America, her birthday cheer,

While others scoff and sneer;

To scorn the lowest critiques—

America for freedom speaks.

Remember America on the Fourth of July

Remember America on the Fourth of July.

Every patriot need not a reason why,

For our country’s love we all comply,

Binding hearts and bodies with a tie

To remember America on the Fourth of July.

But some forget and some deny

That we should remember America on the Fourth of July.

To that, here is my humble and patriotic reply:

Stars and Stripes flapping proudly in the sky,

America’s anthem that makes us cry,

Soldiers for liberty who willingly die.

These, it seems to me, are reasons why

To remember America on the Fourth of July.

Not convinced that these apply

To remember America on the Fourth of July?

Then I must declare, hereby:

Fireworks that light up the night sky,

Children who ooh-and-ah wide eye,

“God Bless America” we sing and sigh.

These are more reasons why

To remember America on the Fourth of July.

But to end here would be a lie

For many more reasons imply

Why we remember America on the Fourth of July:

For bald eagles that soar on high;

For the fifty-six who voted aye;

And the rule of law which we live by.

These are all the reasons why

To remember America on the Fourth of July.

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