Chris Rice Cooper

Chris Rice Cooper

Saturday, July 4, 2015

On This Day 189 Years Ago Thomas Jefferson Died . . .

Christal Rice Cooper


Guest Blogger FREEMAN NG


A Poem Celebrating July The 4th
& In Memoriam of Thomas Jefferson
April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826



Jefferson
He returned, whose name never was attached
to any legend of the great leader not dead
but clenched still in some time defying
dream of his people, some Blessed Isle, some
sloping underground kingdom: his people
too young perhaps or plain-minded, or unable
to imagine ever coming to a last
greatest need. Came to where I camped
in a cleft of the thrusting Rockies he can’t
have known the like of, walking simply
into the clear, not a lost traveler, not
a messenger, just another hiker, in his linen
silver-buttoned waistcoat, heavy breeches,
sturdy laced boots: good enough wear
for a walk in the country, but without
an overcoat or pack. Sitting, at my gesture,
by the fire with a grunt of content. Asking
how stood the Republic.


                                                  I began
with the corporations and the mass
of hoarded wealth so concentrated as to warp
the geometries of our shared plane, but he
was not surprised. Joint stock companies, charters
granted willy nilly; he should have warned
with greater vehemence. I pressed him
with images of child labor, sweatshop workforces
like the populations of entire colonial towns,
but he saw only the germ of enlightened
democratic Revolution in the service
of such a weight of self interest. I told
the rise of the Vote and the Union, and their
decline into present irrelevance. He uttered
ejaculations — no other word than the one
he would have used – of astonished praise
at the former, and for the latter, dispensed
encouragement. What once was built, he said,
could be repaired or reconstructed. (Mind
of the eighteenth century inventor.)


                                                            I turned
to terror, our incessant infamies, and then
he did blanch (only, perhaps, in aristocratic
delicacy) at the rapes and killings, the burnings
of whole cities in a night. Yet, he knew
of cruelties, too, private, familial: he could
extrapolate and so continue nodding
in understanding, nothing yet that might
deter his foolish optimism. I tried
once more: crime and the prisons, which led
inevitably to poverty and race, and there
he became so still and silent, fading
from sight in the sudden dusk, it seemed
time had caught his fugitive soul at last,
pulling him back into the grave
of his completed life. But he remained,
palpable enough to sample the food I offered,
no longer cheerful, no longer fatherly, but
gentle still. The star field he might at last
have found familiar deepened into brilliance.
We crumbled a cigarette into his pipe. The fire
flicked light across our faces, bestowing
an almost imperceptible boon of warmth


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