We stake our claim upon these lands
by hanging high our flag.
This fertile wasteland is our own
and we marked it to prove it.
Turn to it and be reminded
who rules the earth, who moves the planet.
Our proudest banner of abandon
swells with air, collecting soot.
But that which was clean soon turns brown,
tainted by airborne pests and filth,
until the coat of arms fades and all that remains
is a cloudy film, obscuring truth.
The mark of the conqueror,
the stained standard and putrid pennant
that dances so gracefully on the wind.
It almost seems happy.
A glorified smoker’s lung
that chokes the flagpole it adorns.
Our greatest invention,
an eternal signature.
The initial version had a single line (“A smoker’s lung, trailing soot.”) that broke up the flow of the poem with its abruptness. I cut it to fill out the stanza and help the poem flow.
I altered this paragraph to better suit the “midway” point for the poem, as the descriptions of the “flag” become less positive and more disgusting, evoking a sense of decay.
My obsessive-compulsiveness compelled me to even out the stanza lengths, so I reimplemented the line with “smoke” and “lung” in a way that I felt helped the poem flow into a conclusion.