American Renaissance Criminals

let it be remembered that America’s literary pantheon
is full of nuts and felons
crazy Emily won’t come down
drug fiend Poe queer Whitman
even triple-barreled Harvard men



felonious fellows

both in that riotous mob
impeded federal authorities
doing their lawful duty
trying to take into custody
Frank Sanborn Concord schoolmaster
of the notorious Secret Six
who financed John Brown’s
attack on a federal arsenal
Secret Sixer got away

and if the feds had managed
to jail Frank Sanborn
Whitman was ready
part of an armed gang
ready to spring him

when one of John Brown’s Liberators escaped
Frank Merrian
wanted on the run he came
to Samuel Gridley Howe Secret Sixer
Sam lost his nerve
turned hin from his door
Sam Howe good man,
comrade of Byron
fought to free Greece
that day
his nerve broke

George Luther Stearns Secret Sixer
good man staunch abolitionist
Merriam came to him
he copped out too
freaked out
no help

but when Frank finally made it to Concord
where that shot heard round the world
echoes yet in some ears

schoolmaster Sanborn
hid him
super-sage Emerson
loaned horse and shay
eccentric Henry
drove Frank to the station

quickly, efficiently, criminally
no hesitating, no doubt
literary gods
help one of the most wanted men in the USA
to get safe away to Canada

very serious
very serious crime
very serious criminals
Henry and Ralph Waldo

very effective criminals

poets know how
know how when what who
to disobey

poets with outlaw instincts
outlaw reactions reflexes

could be all true poets outlaws?

even Harvard men?

Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Brahmin of the Brahmins
mentor to Emily Dickinson
attacked a jailer with a sword
trying to free
enslaved Anthony Burns

I speak not of living poets
but in the previous generation
the leaders of the schools
Robert Lowell first among the genteel
adorned with many prizes
Alan Ginsberg
adored and scorned
first among the roughnecks

both served jail time
for crimes of conscience

and who helped Tom Paine
hunted by the British authorities
hid him in his house
till he could get out of the country

it was William Blake
the poet friend of angels
and of revolutionaries

so bless them all
Oh Great Muse Co-Conspirator
honor the outlaw poets
now and forever