It may come as a surprise to many, but several of our country's Presidents did, at one time or another, take pen in hand and endeavor to write poetry - and fortunately for our national psyche, most proved to be better at penning poetry than George Dubya Bush is at painting.
This, being President's Day, I felt might be an opportune time to showcase a presidential poem. I used a couple by Lincoln a few years ago, and today have selected a piece by my other favorite President, Barack Obama. The poem talks about the relationship between a son and his father.
The Obama's have held several poetry events at the White House over the years, and poetry selections were also read at each of the President's two inaugurations. President Obama has even, on occasion, referred to himself as a "teen poet."
Here is how President Obama describes the importance of poetry in our lives:
"Poetry matters. Poetry, like all art, gives shape and texture and depth of meaning to our lives. It helps us know the world. It helps us understand ourselves. It helps us understand others, their struggles, their joys, the ways that they see the world. It helps us connect...
I think it's fair to say that if we didn't have poetry that this would be a pretty barren world. In fact, it's not clear that we would survive without poetry."
And now, "Pop" by our Commander in Chief and pre-eminent poetry appreciator:
by Barack Obama
Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies...
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine, and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shrink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; ‘cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.