John Ciardi--American

    
John Ciardi
(1916-1986)

 

A child of Italian immigrants, John Ciardi was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1916. He served three years in the Air Force, and then in 1946 went on to teach at the University of Kansas, and then Harvard where he remained until 1953. Following this, Ciardi went on to teach at Rutgers University until 1961. He is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, one of the best known being How Does a Poem Mean,? a publication that became popular as a text for poetry courses. Ciardi was devoted to making poetry accessible to the general public, and throughout his career he attracted a large following. In addition to writing poetry, Ciardi was a translator, a regular commentator on National Public Radio, and served as editor of the Saturday Review.

 

A Box Comes Home
I remember the United States of America
As a flag-draped box with Arthur in it
And six marines to bear it on their shoulders.
I wonder how someone once came to remember
The Empire of the East and the Empire of the West.
As an urn maybe delivered by chariot.
You could bring Germany back on a shield once
And France in a plume. England, I suppose,
Kept coming back a long time as a letter.
Once I saw Arthur dressed as the United States
of America. Now I see the United States
of America as Arthur in flag-sealed domino.
And I would pray more good of Arthur
Than I can wholly believe. I would pray
An agreement with the United States of America
To equal Arthur’s living as it equals his dying
At the red-taped grave in Woodmere
By the rain and oak leaves on the domino.