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Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact [email protected].

The Watergate

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 12, 2017.
About this Poem 
“I am concerned with a public and a private context that I associate with the word watergate: the dominant social one, of course, relates to the scandal, but I prefer the other context that grows from an event at an actual water gate. Finally, the two contexts resolve in the music of one word. I was three when I first heard watergate, and I imagined a gate made of water.”
—Rodney Jones
 

The Watergate

For most in the United States the word brings a phase
when mortars in Vietnam still whistled around them
and the scandal of Nixon and his Machiavellian buds
poured from the news into their subconscious—I see
that Watergate too: the televised hearings, and in particular
one session—Sam Ervin had just asked Ehrlichman
or Dean or Haldeman, a long-winded, periphrastic,
left-branching question—it must have lasted
forty seconds and seemed three days before he paused
for effect, and Ehrlichman or Dean or Haldeman
answered: “Senator, could you please repeat the question?”
And he did, verbatim! And that is one Watergate.
 
But I think also of the morning my father sent me to the creek
that ran through our pasture to remove a dead calf
a flood had floated north to lodge against our water gate—
a little Guernsey heifer—I had petted her often—
Now flies buzzed around her, bloated and entangled
in the mesh—and I remember her eyes were open,
so she seemed to watch as I pulled first one leg
then another from the vines and wire that trapped her,
and pulled her to the bank through the shallow water.
 
Because the second water gate, which features the tender
relationship between a dead calf and a little boy,
happened twenty years before the first, in which men
break into an office complex in a hotel, I prefer its
posts and hog wire that kept cows from a neighbor’s field
to the gray rows of filing cabinets that brought down a presidency.
The water pours out of the mountain and runs to the sea.
Sometimes I say it to myself, until the meanings leave.
I say Watergate until it is water pouring through water.

Copyright © 2017 by Rodney Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Rodney Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.