American Roots: Moral Associations

By Primus St. John Primus St. John
1    Kinship:
      Is embarrassing the wind,
      Like dead black boys,
      Falling down from the trees,
      Then downstream–
      On their knees,
      Blood like,
      Like a rich nation.

2    Metaphor:
      Becomes humiliating,
      And clean,
      Ticking like a ripe machine.
      Do not
      Or mutilate me–
      This is your future speaking.

3    The air smells so metaphysical
      We have accused it–
      Of smog,
      And lost manhood,
      Then all ritual.

4    Whoever wrote:
      A view is a mountain speaking
      But left the introduction
      For the snow,
      And accused silence
      Of its soul.

5    The whole nation:
      Is a stanza of blackness,
      A huge white whale,
      Faith in space
      (Like the newspapers),
      And the quiet insistence
      We have peace,
      And it’s your world, brother.

Primus St. John, "American Roots: Moral Associations" from Communion: Poems 1976-1998. Copyright © 1999 by Primus St. John. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townshend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Communion: Poems 1976-1998 (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

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Poet Primus St. John

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Poetry & Poets

 Primus  St. John


Primus St. John was born in New York City in 1939. For more than 30 years he has lived in Oregon and taught at Portland State University. He is one of the inaugurators of the national Poets in the Schools program, the editor of two anthologies, and the author of several collections of poetry, for which he has received an Oregon Book Award and a Western States Book Award. Three of these books have been collected together, along . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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