Memorial Day at Poplar Forest

Photo of Poplar Forest from a nearby Baptist conference center’s tourist info.

Tomorrow Barry and I will make our fourth trip to Poplar Forest for Memorial Day. Here’s a poem I wrote on the first visit.

MEMORIAL DAY AT POPLAR FOREST for C.B.A.

Thomas Jefferson
rode the ninety miles
two days on horseback
three by carriage:
this octagon villa
his retreat from public life
at Monticello.

Sated on soda bread
a magnum of wine
we stretch out under the farthest surviving poplar
watch cumulous clouds dock and disolve.
One evokes a falcon
its swoop of wings, its talons.
Above us, the bough trimmed severely,
the poplar’s leaves crowd in along remaining wood
as if to compensate for phantom limbs.

On the house tour we learn
Tom’s slaves cast and laid a quarter million bricks
according to his design directly to clay
with no foundation.
After one hundred eighty-seven years
the skeleton of bricks remains intact
paint scaled off a coat at a time
then plaster, all stored to stoppered test tubes:
archeology essentially a deconstructive process.

Ghost marks on bricks
reveal a mantel here
a chair rail there,
let us glimpse the future restoration.
I prefer this bare brick:
strained backs of men and horses
beneath the great man’s surfaces.

*
And speaking of Memorial Day, here’s a baker’s dozen from NewsTrust on the Iraq War, something to keep in mind as we mark the day tomorrow.

  1. The Sergeant Lost Within NYT–Reviews
  2. Book Review – ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ NYT —Reviews
  3. Soldier-Brothers See All Sides of War AP Reviews
  4. Feeling safer, Iraqis come home APReviews
  5. As soldiers fill Sadr City, militia fighters wait LA Times Reviews
  6. Iran ‘paid Iraq insurgents to kill UK soldiers’ Daily Telegraph Reviews
  7. The Return of Iraq’s Ayatollah Time Reviews
  8. U.S. Teams Start Work Of Restoring South Iraq WaPoReviews
  9. Iraq Vets Get Poor Health Care, Americans Say in Harvard Survey Bloomberg
    Reviews
  10. War and service: Remembrance and debate Balt Sun Reviews
  11. Controversial Contractor’s Iraq Work Is Split Up NYT Reviews
  12. Congress declares budget war LA Times Reviews
  13. Pentagon public relations program investigated AP Reviews
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