Haiku History

The American saga, seventeen syllables at a time

Walking from Asia
A hunter, a tribe, a clan
Into a new world

(First arrivals, c. 15,000 BC)

The Norsemen sail west
For fish, grapes, a plot of ground
Then sail east again

(Newfoundland, c. 1000 AD)

The winged boats arrive
The bearded ones come ashore
Who the hell are they?

(Columbus, 1492)

Fever takes the young
Their parents weep, then die too
Whole peoples perish

(First contacts, 15th-19th centuries)

Gold! There will be gold!
For gentlemen to gather
In fair Virginia

(Jamestown, 1607)

Torn from their homeland
Transported in misery
To labor in chains

(Atlantic slave trade, 16th-19th centuries)

We solemnly swear
As a joint body to seek
The general good

(Mayflower Compact, 1620)

Terror in the night
Blood and slaughter in the day
Horror on the land

(King Philip's War, 1670s)

Shivers and specters
Flit over hearts in Salem
And nineteen are hanged

(Salem witch trials, 1692)

New lights and new hearts
New preachers in new pulpits
Awaken the world

(Great Awakening, 1740s)

Clouds churn, thunder rolls
The kite string shudders and sends
A live spark to earth

(Ben Franklin's kite, 1752)

Taxes, new taxes
That drive a free people to
Arson and riot

(Stamp Act protests, 1765)

Taunts and ice balls fly
Nervous soldiers flinch and fire
Blood moon, scarlet snow

(Boston Massacre, 1770)

Gruff men, frightened boys
Face off, then fire unknowing
And shatter a world

(Battle of Lexington, 1775)

A congress ponders
Then takes a heartstopping leap
To independence

(Declaration of Independence, 1776)

On windswept hillside
A freezing army struggles
To hold together

(Valley Forge, 1778)

French money and ships
American muskets and will
Bring Cornwallis down

(Battle of Yorktown, 1781)

Delegates gather
To subvert one government
And craft another

(Constitutional Convention, 1787)

At Federal Hall
A federal government
Restarts the nation

(The new government begins work, 1789)

A cunning device
Which severs cotton from seeds
Gives bondage new life

(Cotton gin, 1790s)

A western empire
Suddenly offered for sale

(Louisiana Purchase, 1803)

A dismal conflict
Dashing vainglorious hopes
Embarrassing all

(War of 1812)

Yet Jackson stands fast
At the gates of New Orleans
Salvaging honor

(Battle of New Orleans, 1815)

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