Ballad of the Salvation Army

By Kenneth Fearing 1902–1961 Kenneth Fearing
On Fourteenth street the bugles blow,
   Bugles blow, bugles blow.
The red, red, red, red banner floats
Where sweating angels split their throats,
Marching in burlap petticoats,
   Blow, bugles, blow.

God is a ten car Bronx express,
   Red eyes round, red eyes round.
"Oh where is my lustful lamb tonight,
His hair slicked down and his trousers tight?
I'll grind him back to my glory light!"
   Roll, subway, roll.

Heaven is a free amusement park,
   Big gold dome, big gold dome.
Movies at night: "The life she led."
Everyone sleeps in one big bed.
The stars go around inside your head.
   Home, sweet home.

On Fourteenth street the bugles blow,
   Bugles blow, bugles blow,
The torpid stones and pavements wake,
A million men and street-cars quake
In time with angel breasts that shake,
   Blow, bugles, blow!

Kenneth Fearing, "Ballad of the Salvation Army" from Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems. Published by The Library of America, 2004. Reprinted by the permission of Russell & Volkening, Inc., as agents for the author. Copyright © 1994 by Jubal Fearing and Phoebe Fearing.

Source: Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems (The Library of America, 2004)

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Poet Kenneth Fearing 1902–1961

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Social Commentaries, War & Conflict, Heroes & Patriotism

Biography

Kenneth Fearing, a well-known proletarian poet of the 1930s, a pulp-magazine writer with several pseudonyms, and a Chicago and New York publicity and editorial writer, turned to writing “psycho-thrillers” in the 1940s and 1950s. His fourth novel The Big Clock (1946) achieved much popularity and was released as a film by Paramount in 1947. Although some scholars now consider Fearing’s main contribution to be in the genre of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, War & Conflict, Heroes & Patriotism

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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