Ah, Lord, how long did it last
that golden age of interchange
Verrazzano found upon the lower coasts
of now New England, whose calm majestic inhabitants
cared nothing for silk or golden cloth or knives or steel or iron at all
or even, o other world, for mirrors
"having looked at them they would be returned with a smile"
only "small bells, blue crystal glass, and other objects of fantasy
to put in their ears or hang about the neck"
Verrazzano looked on, it looked wonderful, he did not ever doubt
"they exceed ourselves in size," some "bronze color, some inclining to white
others to tawny color -- the profile sharp, the hair long and black
the eyes black and alert, and their bearing
is sweet and gentle, much in the manner of olden days"
advancing across the savannahs of Narragansett Bay and North
as Goullart found the Lolos of Tibet
the presence of the knights of chivalry
across the orcharded sward of World War II
and in their cultivation they observe "in planting the influence of the moon
the rising of the Pleiades and many customs of the ancients"
How long did it last, that Paradise?
never longer than it took those French to travel North along the coast to Maine
and there the mala gent, dressed in skins, suspicious, distant
trading only by letting down their goods on strings from the cliffs
and wanting only "knives fishhooks or edged metal" in return
as far as the fishing fleets of Biscay and Brittany
already had raided in their search for cod and fur
April to May 1524 -- the open welcome of the New World
willingness all eager to embrace
took one toke from those who only wanted to go East for riches
and the shit was shot
© 1977 by Kenneth Irby
from Catalpa (Tansy Press)