Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents' Day Poem

Reproductions of Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware graced the wall of my elementary school, as well as middle school & I'm pretty sure high school too. There are historical inaccuracies in Leutze's depiciton; the flag, for instance, displayed prominently in the painting, didn't exist at the time of the battle.

To be fair, one could level similar charges against my poem. I don't have any sources to confirm what items Washington packed for his overnighter, but at the same time, nor do I know any that debunk my claim, so as far as I know, I freakin' nailed it!

To whatever degree of success, my idea was to write a tongue-in-cheek description of the Leutz painting. I had Larry River's painting & Frank O'Hara's "On Seeing Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art" in mind when I wrote.

"Washington Crossing the Delaware" first appeared in Swink & subsequently, in my chapbook, Here's How. I'm presenting it here as a Presidents Day poem in hopes of placing my name on the list of candidates for the next U.S. Poet Laureate. I understand it's a long list--here's hoping!

Washington Crossing the Delaware
What does one pack
for a jaunt into history?
Honeywell reports: A change
of clothes, powder

for his periwig & a Fannie
Burney novel to pass
the night in Trenton. But now, icy
clumps batter the klutzy

ferry. Frozen in his stance, boot
propped confidently atop
his duffel bag, he fixes
his determined gaze

upon New Jersey, drawing
closer as if
he willed it so, his ragged
troops slaving to propel

the Durham up-
stream, the turgid river
maintaining fierce
loyalty to the crown.

He stands, tattered
flag at his shoulder, saber
at his side, big hands
curled into fists.

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