05 January 2011

Voices and Soul

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

04 January 2011

At a holiday gathering, a friend recounted a story told by Senator Al Franken, in which he balanced Liberal and Conservative approaches to the history of the United States. The Conservative, Franken said, loves America and its past like a four year old; whereas, Liberals love America like adults.

The four year old loves mommy and mommy can do no wrong; and woe to those in the sand box who might question mommy's correct and consistent exceptionalism. The adult sees their parents as flawed but noble creatures who did the best they could. Could have been better, but the adult still loves them for the energy in protecting the family, for keeping the family together.

The adult cannot just explain away or ignore the terrible compromises their parents made along the way; the adult will acknowledge and attempt to better their own futures with the knowledge of those ancestral histories.

The Conservative either feigns ignorance or simply ignores the history; or conjures a child-like myth to scare away the bedtime ghosts of our past.

On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial

We invent our gods
the way the Greeks did,
in our own image—but magnified.
Athena, the very mother of wisdom,
squabbled with Poseidon
like any human sibling
until their furious tempers
made the sea writhe.

Zeus wore a crown
of lightning bolts one minute,
a cloak of feathers the next,
as driven by earthly lust
he prepared to swoop
down on Leda.
Despite their power,
frailty ran through them

like the darker veins
in the marble of these temples
we call monuments.
Looking at Jefferson now,
I think of the language
he left for us to live by.
I think of the slave
in the kitchen downstairs.

Linda Pastan

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