On the Day of Nixon's Funeral
It's time to put the aside the old resentments; lies, machinations, the paranoia, bugs in telephones, the body bags, secret bombings, his sweaty upper lip, my cousin Arnie, too dumb to go to school, too virtuous to confess he'd give blow jobs for nothing at the Paramount, so he lost a leg in Da Nang. Now it's time for amnesiacs to play Beethoven's Eroica by Nixon's casket. To applaud his loyalty, to grant a few mistakes, to honor his diplomacy, him and his pal Kissinger who bombed the lush green paddies of Cambodia. And now for a few lyric moments as I wait patiently for my fiftieth birthday. Wood ducks decorate the pond near this farmhouse, and in the marsh I've spied a meadow lark, a fox, a white-tailed hawk who soars above the Western Mountain peaks. Oh, I'm in love with the country all right. So I can forget my friend Sweeney, who shot Congressman Lowenstein because the radio in his tooth insisted on it. I remember the march on the Pentagon in purple, a proud member of the Vegetarian Brigade. I was drugged, as many of us were drugged, as my parents were drugged by a few major networks, by a ranch house and an Oldsmobile. I once spit on Hubert Humphrey, threw a brick through Dow Chemical's plate-glass door. I wrote insane letters to Senators, burying them in moral rectitude: I got a response from one: Senator Kennedy — the dead one — whose office wrongly argued for slow withdrawal instead of Instant Victory. I remember Tricky Dick in Nineteen Fifty-three: I'm eight years-old, frightened and ignorant, lying down before my parents' first TV: my aunts and uncles sitting in a circle, biting their nails, whispering names of relatives awaiting trial, who, thanks to Nixon, lost their sorry jobs. You can see why I'd want to bury this man whose blood would not circulate, whose face was paralyzed, who should have died in shame and solitude, without benefit of eulogy or twenty-one gun salutes. I want to bury him in Southern California with the Birchers and the Libertarians. I want to look out my window and cheer the remaining cedars that require swampy habitats to survive. To be done with shame and rage this April afternoon, where embryonic fiddleheads, fuzzy and curled and pale as wings, have risen to meet me. After all, they say he was a scrappy man, wily and sage, who served as Lucifer, scapegoat, scoundrel, a receptacle for acrimony and rage — one human being whose life I have no reverence for, which is why I'm singing now.
"On the Day of Nixon's Funeral," from Grazing, published by the University of Illinois Press, 1998. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.