Saturday, December 10, 2005

The coat has been hung on the peg. In memoriam Eugene McCarthy

Gene McCarthy was a prophet who read the signs of his times and had the moral courage to accept his call, not only as a a politician, but also as a poet when the nation needed a poet more than anything. One of the few fortunate to have moved the course of history, he was -- for a time -- the right man at the right time. We need his kind now more than ever.

Two poems by Eugene McCarthy (1916 - 2005)


Now it is certain.
There is no magic stone.
No secret to be found.
One must go
With the mind's winnowed learning.
No more than the child's handhold
On the willows bending over the lake,
On the sumac roots at the cliff edge.
Ignorance is checked,
Betrayals scratched.
The coat has been hung on the peg,
The cigar laid on the table edge,
The cue chosen and chalked,
The balls set for the final break.
All cards drawn,
All bets called.
The dice, warm as blood in the hand,
Shaken for the last cast.
The glove has been thrown to the ground,
The last choice of weapons made.

A book for one thought.
A poem for one line.
A line for one word.

"Broken things are powerful."
Things about to break are stronger still.
The last shot from the brittle bow is truest.


The maple tree that night
Without a wind or rain
Let go its leaves
Because its time had come.
Brown veined, spotted,
Like old hands, fluttering in blessing,
They fell upon my head
And shoulders, and then
Down to the quiet at my feet.
I stood, and stood
Until the tree was bare
And have told no one
But you that I was there.

1 comment:

Michael L. Moore said...

I cast my first vote for President by voting for Eugene McCarthy in 1976 (yes, a mere child in years--I was 19 that year.) A few years later I bought a copy of James Bryce's American Commonwealth, in which he includes a chapter (written already before 1890) "Why Great Men Do Not Become President." He thought it was primarily because the men of imagination and vision mostly went into business and stayed there, rather than into a (then) poorly remunerated public career. Having been in business a while, I think times have changed! But in general I'm afraid at some point America turned against having genuinely wise--or even appreciably intelligent--men in the White House.

Was Gene too good to be President? No. But perhaps we weren't good enough for him to be our President.