Teaching George Washington
14 July 2005
The rotten teeth made him look older, poorer,
more eccentric than he really was.
So much about him was affectation,
like the ratty, old beige sports coat
with the patches on the elbows
and the hastily repaired left pocket,
or the way he walked, always in a slow hurry,
holding his books just high enough,
giving the impression of trained detachment.
But in his private moments, in his dreams,
the memories were of a two story colonial,
two cars in the garage, older sister, baseball,
latchkey childhood, stark in its unremarkableness.
Is it so surprising, this need to embellish,
to make a life inside the life, to recreate
the mundane as transcendental, even if
the transcendence is in the nature of a lie or two?
In other words, he did not know struggle
and disappointment with any unusual intimacy,
and so produced the notion of himself
as born in a cauldron of struggle,
paratrooper in Viet Nam, purple hearts,
post traumatic stress, and the murder
of a childhood friend, witnessed in horror
on a vacant school yard in Pennsylvania.
He always leaves his classroom door open.
You can see him pacing, gesticulating,
occasionally cursing the fly
that keeps buzzing his face,
talking about the Revolutionary War,
as if he'd been there, sitting beside old George,
developing the strategems to liberate a nation,
or choosing tonight's comforter, a slave winch,
and you'd think he had been there, seen it all,
touched the planks in the boat crossing the Delaware,
and not a single objection is ever raised
because some lies are so much better than truth.
© 2006, Satya J. Gabriel