ARRIVING IN SPRINGFIELD
Waiting for pizza, a man
approaches our table and says
this is the wettest June on record.
We drive by the Benedictine College,
and the Methodist Church readerboard
has only one thing to say:
Few of us need voice lessons
to sing our own praise.
I have not been so lucky.
A lucky Lutheran pastor emails how
his parents brought him here years ago.
We take the back road into Pittsfield
and walk into the Watson Hotel
where Lincoln stayed and I ask
the woman at the desk which room
Lincoln had, and she says
the one I rent to you.
Lincoln and Douglas
talked back and forth at each other
on the County Courthouse across the street,
soup made from boiling the shadow of a starving pigeon,
and the judge invites us to walk through
and take all the pictures you want
we're just talking.
The Tea Party has the biggest sign on Main Street.
When the Lincolns left Springfield for the White House
they had a yard sale. A big one.
My own scholarship on Lincoln holds up.
My favorite spot is the train station where Lincoln
says thanks and kindly let me be silent.
I don't know when I'll be back. F. W. Bowen
the RR supe wrote this note,
This train will be entitled to the road,
and all other trains must be kept out of the way.
Kerosene fueled de-icers and bamboo loops
to change schedules without stopping
hang on the wall. We walk Mr. Lincoln's
neighborhood, no cars allowed,
and inside the Lincoln house,
Karen reminds me,
I ran for Mrs. Lincoln
at Lincoln High School in Seattle
where she graduated in 1963.
Mr. Case, my 7th grade Language Arts teacher
taught me to diagram sentences and
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,
and if Lincoln had a weak eye it found Whitman's
on the street looking at him. My bow to apocrypha.
I could not have lived with Mary Lincoln
I wrote to a friend night before last
and the museum program goes to work
on my conscience but my assessment remains.
Ambition, high end spending, and Presbyterianism.
I'm ok with seances bringing children back to life.
Nora Titone's new book on sibling rivalry
in the Booth family stops me cold.
A poster claiming awareness of this problem
could have changed history, recounting her time
apprenticed in our major universities
provides my one Aha! experience.
If that's what literature's about I want none of it.
I make no major claims for the way I live as a poet.
Every day is just another day at first.
Ford's Theatre closed immediately
and didn't reopen for 103 years
with the performance of John Brown's Body in 1968.
Every little piece along the way did take place.
The funniest of phun has no context.
So much sorrow. Ringing laughter.
"An open field and a fair chance."
9 July 2010
New Ross, Indiana
Before cattails and the flooding Missouri River,
Karen says, You can turn off your turn signal,
then laughs that little girl giggle.
7 July 2010
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF, GRANDPA
—for Kevin, poet of the post card poem
Chuck, at the Pony Express in Gothenburg,
gives me the story twice, after I return
from the Post Office with stamps.
Pony Express, a private company,
owned by Russell, Majors & Waddell.
Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express Company,
out of Nebraska. Ten days to San Francisco.
Crossing the Great Plains from April 1860,
to October 1861. Put out of business
by the telegraph. Or railroad.
Horseback riders in relay stations.
This from Ehman Park, Gothenburg,
off I-80, full of mosquitoes,
while eating shrimp the day NPR
announces the Post Office request
to raise the price of first class stamps to 46 cents.
40,000 layoffs on the way.
Everyone paying bills by email.
Karen and I online 24-7 in the mothership.
No need to travel by horse or plane.
Maybe geography's still practical.
We share a history in relayed exchange.
6 July 2010