“THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO GO”

I was 13 when Tricky Dick
finally bit it.
I remember Ted Coppel
talking,
talking,
talking—
and everyone who joined in
only said NICE things
about the ex-President—
and especially his Checkers.
Soldiers tip toed the
candy cane coffin
beneath waving palms;
And I saluted my television
in the den,
decorated by blow-up bunnies
and a coloring book crucifixion.
We were always late
boxing up decorations.
I watched the whole thing,
untangling fake plastic grass
from an empty pot of soil,
where I played war
with my G.I. Joes.
The next day at Central,
my social studies teacher asked us
for a show of hands, “Who watched
Richard Nixon’s funeral?”
I was the only one who volunteered,
sweat surrendering to my underarm.
I was terrified to be picked
to tell the other kids about it.
Mr. Skahill smiled at my panic,
as though we were playing
poker
and he was about to drop his flop,
right there behind his desk.
Jokers beaming in his eyes,
he stretched out both arms
and said something awful
about the corpse, whose RGB
I saluted not long ago.
It was the first REAL thing
I’d heard spoken all month.
When I got home later that day,
the resurrection was over;
It's artifacts wrapped in newspaper,
stuffed inside cardboard—
and ready for the attic.

narrative poem written on 11-22-2010 by: on mattkane.com
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