The American Way

By Gregory Corso 1930–2001 Gregory Corso
1

I am a great American
I am almost nationalistic about it!
I love America like a madness!
But I am afraid to return to America
I’m even afraid to go into the American Express—


2

They are frankensteining Christ in America
         in their Sunday campaigns
They are putting the fear of Christ in America
         under their tents in their Sunday campaigns
They are driving old ladies mad with Christ in America
They are televising the gift of healing and the fear of hell
         in America under their tents in their Sunday   
         campaigns
They are leaving their tents and are bringing their Christ
         to the stadiums of America in their Sunday
         campaigns
They are asking for a full house an all get out
         for their Christ in the stadiums of America
They are getting them in their Sunday and Saturday   
         campaigns
They are asking them to come forward and fall on their
         knees
         because they are all guilty and they are coming
         forward
         in guilt and are falling on their knees weeping their   
         guilt
         begging to be saved O Lord O Lord in their Monday   
         Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
         and Sunday campaigns


3

It is a time in which no man is extremely wondrous   
It is a time in which rock stupidity
         outsteps the 5th Column as the sole enemy in America
It is a time in which ignorance is a good Ameri-cun   
         ignorance is excused only where it is so   
         it is not so in America
Man is not guilty   Christ is not to be feared
I am telling you the American Way is a hideous monster   
         eating Christ   making Him into Oreos and Dr. Pepper   
         the sacrament of its foul mouth
I am telling you the devil is impersonating Christ in America   
America’s educators & preachers are the mental-dictators
         of false intelligence   they will not allow America
         to be smart
         they will only allow death to make America smart   
Educators & communicators are the lackeys of the   
         American Way
They enslave the minds of the young
         and the young are willing slaves (but not for long)   
         because who is to doubt the American Way   
         is not the way?
The duty of these educators is no different   
         than the duty of a factory foreman
Replica production   make all the young think alike   
         dress alike   believe alike   do alike
Togetherness   this is the American Way
The few great educators in America are weak & helpless   
They abide   and so uphold the American Way
Wars have seen such men   they who despised things about
         them
         but did nothing   and they are the most dangerous   
Dangerous because their intelligence is not denied   
         and so give faith to the young
         who rightfully believe in their intelligence   
Smoke this cigarette doctors smoke this cigarette   
         and doctors know

Educators know   but they dare not speak their know   
The victory that is man is made sad in this fix   
Youth can only know the victory of being born
         all else is stemmed   until death be the final victory
         and a merciful one at that
If America falls it will be the blame of its educators   
         preachers   communicators   alike
America today is America’s greatest threat
We are old when we are young
America is always new   the world is always new   
The meaning of the world is birth not death
Growth gone in the wrong direction
The true direction grows ever young
In this direction what grows grows old
A strange mistake   a strange and sad mistake   
         for it has grown into an old thing
         while all else around it is new
Rockets will not make it any younger—
And what made America decide to grow?
I do not know   I can only hold it to the strangeness in man   
And America has grown into the American Way—
To be young is to be ever purposeful   limitless   
To grow is to know limit   purposelessness
Each age is a new age
How outrageous it is that something old and sad
         from the pre-age incorporates each new age—
Do I say the Declaration of Independence is old?
Yes I say what was good for 1789, is not good for 1960   
It was right and new to say all men were created equal
         because it was a light then
But today it is tragic to say it
         today it should be fact—
Man has been on earth a long time
One would think with his mania for growth
         he would, by now, have outgrown such things as   
         constitutions manifestos codes commandments   
         that he could well live in the world without them   
         and know instinctively how to live and be   
         —for what is being but the facility to love?
Was not that the true goal of growth, love?
Was not that Christ?
But man is strange and grows where he will
         and chalks it all up to Fate   whatever be—
America rings with such strangeness
It has grown into something strange and
         the American is good example of this mad growth   
The boy man   big baby meat
         as though the womb were turned backwards   
         giving birth to an old man
The victory that is man does not allow man
         to top off his empirical achievement with death   
The Aztecs did it by yanking out young hearts
         at the height of their power
The Americans are doing it by feeding their young to the   
         Way
For it was not the Spaniard who killed the Aztec
         but the Aztec who killed the Aztec
Rome is proof   Greece is proof   all history is proof   
Victory does not allow degeneracy
It will not be the Communists will kill America
         no   but America itself—
The American Way   that sad mad process
         is not run by any one man or organization   
It is a monster born of itself   existing of its self
The men who are employed by this monster
         are employed unknowingly
They reside in the higher echelons of intelligence   
They are the educators the psychiatrists the ministers
         the writers the politicians the communicators
         the rich the entertainment world
And some follow and sing the Way because they sincerely   
         believe it to be good
And some believe it holy and become minutemen in it   
Some are in it simply to be in
And most are in it for gold
They do not see the Way as monster
They see it as the “Good Life”
What is the Way?
The Way was born out of the American Dream   
         a nightmare—
The state of Americans today compared to the Americans   
         of the 18th century proves the nightmare—
Not Franklin not Jefferson who speaks for America today   
         but strange red-necked men of industry   
         and the goofs of show business
Bizarre! Frightening! The Mickey Mouse sits on the throne   
         and Hollywood has a vast supply—
Could grammar school youth seriously look upon
         a picture of George Washington and “Herman Borst”   
         the famous night club comedian together at Valley   
         Forge?
Old old and decadent   gone the dignity
         the American sun seems headed for the grave
O that youth might raise it anew!
The future depends solely on the young   
The future is the property of the young   
What the young know the future will know   
What they are and do the future will be and do   
What has been done must not be done again   
Will the American Way allow this?   
No.
I see in every American Express
         and in every army center in Europe
         I see the same face the same sound of voice
         the same clothes the same walk   
I see mothers & fathers
         no difference among them
Replicas
They not only speak and walk and think alike   
         they have the same face!
What did this monstrous thing?
What regiments a people so?
How strange is nature’s play on America   
Surely were Lincoln alive today
         he could never be voted President   not with his   
         looks—
Indeed Americans are babies all in the embrace
         of Mama Way
Did not Ike, when he visited the American Embassy in
         Paris a year ago, say to the staff—“Everything is fine,   
         just drink Coca Cola, and everything will be all right.”   
         This is true, and is on record
Did not American advertising call for TOGETHERNESS?   
         not orgiasticly like today’s call   
         nor as means to stem violence   
         This is true, and is on record.
Are not the army centers in Europe ghettos?   
         They are, and O how sad   how lost!
The PX newsstands are filled with comic books
The army movies are always Doris Day   
What makes a people huddle so?   
Why can’t they be universal?
Who has smalled them so?
This is serious! I do not mock or hate this
         I can only sense some mad vast conspiracy!   
Helplessness is all it is!
They are caught   caught in the Way—
And those who seek to get out of the Way   
         can not
The Beats are good example of this   
They forsake the Way’s habits
         and acquire for themselves their own habits
And they become as distinct and regimented and lost
         as the main flow
         because the Way has many outlets
         like a snake of many tentacles—
There is no getting out of the Way
The only way out is the death of the Way
And what will kill the Way but a new consciousness   
Something great and new and wonderful must happen
         to free man from this beast
It is a beast we can not see or even understand
For it be the condition of our minds
God how close to science fiction it all seems!
As if some power from another planet
         incorporated itself in the minds of us all
It could well be!
For as I live I swear America does not seem like America   
         to me

Americans are a great people
I ask for some great and wondrous event
         that will free them from the Way
         and make them a glorious purposeful people once   
         again
I do not know if that event is due   deserved
         or even possible
I can only hold that man is the victory of life
And I hold firm to American man

I see standing on the skin of the Way
         America   to be as proud and victorious as St.   
         Michael on the neck of the fallen Lucifer—

Gregory Corso, “The American Way” from Elegiac Feelings American. Copyright © 1970 by Gregory Corso. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Mindfield: New and Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1989)

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Poet Gregory Corso 1930–2001

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Heroes & Patriotism, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Gregory  Corso

Biography

Gregory Corso was a key member of the Beat movement, a group of convention-breaking writers who were credited with sparking much of the social and political change that transformed the United States in the 1960s. Corso's spontaneous, insightful, and inspirational verse once prompted fellow Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to describe him as an "awakener of youth." Although Corso enjoyed his greatest level of popularity during the 1960s . . .

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SUBJECT Heroes & Patriotism, History & Politics, Social Commentaries

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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