Presidential pieces . . .

Okay, I debated about this post (which I’ve had written for a while), because I know many of my readers will ask: What can she be thinking? Or, this is haiku?  But, I’m sorry, I’m going for it.  February does, after all, recognize President’s Day (that’s how I’m justifying) and, anyway, after recently reading Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, in which she chronicles road trips to look at the personal relics of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, I feel even more justified as a patriot in bringing two former Prezzies into the haiku debate spotlight.  So, here’s the deal. . . .  On a trip to the Smithsonian several years ago, I discovered I was drawn not to the natural phenomena (with the exception of stones–moon rocks, diamonds, rubies) but to the intimate ephemera of our first president’s daily life: i.e., his teeth, which were then, incorrectly, marked as “wooden.”  I couldn’t take my eyes off them– I admit, a little creepy . . . and a whole lot voyeuristic.  Recently, however, scientists also have been taking a closer look at George’s pearlies . . . with some surprising discoveries. 

Washington’s teeth aren’t the only presidential relics that I’ve gazed, slack-jawed, upon in my museum rounds.  Years later, I was excited to find a lock of his hair (brown, not white) in a small museum in Portland, Maine; apparently, it used to be customary for George to clip off a little snippet of his DNA to send to fans as a memento.  And then there was one of Lincoln’s signature stovepipes on display in Vermont; that, I have to say, is my most prized natural history sighting to date.  Inspired–or cracked–I’ve written these three small tributes to Abe & George (both of whom celebrate birthdays this month, in case you didn’t already gather that).  Enough said. . . .

George’s teeth: not wood
at all but (mostly) ivory–
nine from the mouths of slaves

under glass–
Abe’s stovepipe oddly
eye-to-eye with me

A lock of George’s
slipped inside her letter

If you’d like to share your favorite museum sightings, send them my way . . .  Oh, and by the way, Happy President’s Day!



About Margaret Dornaus

I’m a writer and a teacher, as well as a haiku-doodler. I live in a beautiful woodland setting, surrounded by native oak forests, that inspires me to record haiku snapshots of luna moths and our resident roadrunner, and even an occasional black bear as it hightails it across the top of my road, my mongrel dog barking at its heels as I watch with wonder. My work as a travel writer has appeared in publications from The Dallas Morning News to the Robb Report. You can find examples of my travel writing–as well as excerpts from a travel memoir I’m working on–at my other WordPress site, Travelin’ On. What more than that do you need to know? Only that I started this blog with an eye toward collaboration. Got a haiku? Send it my way. . . . I’m all about new visions & voices. Best, Margaret
This entry was posted in Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Haiku, Haiku-doodle, President's Day and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Presidential pieces . . .

  1. David! says:

    presidents? hooray!
    G B G M is open.
    what’s that all about?

  2. Margaret, fun stuff!

    For one of my library practicums this semester I’m scanning a manuscript by a Civil War soldier who was an amazingly talented writer and artist. He wrote a completely fascinating account of seeing Lincoln review the troops in 1863 — the guy had an incredible eye for detail and he describes, for instance, what Lincoln looked like sitting (badly) on a regular cavalry horse (as opposed to the fancy steeds the rest of his retinue were riding) — very funny description. Hence my NaHaiWriMo ku. I am going to transcribe some of this stuff when I get a chance, I’ll send it your way when I do …

  3. (Incidentally, my practicum is at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum … so this, in fact, a museum sighting. 🙂 All my scanning is going to result in a museum exhibit of this manuscript as part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the war this spring.)

  4. alee9 says:

    I love this conversation between you two, Margaret, Melissa! And may I join in?

    I’ve seen quite a few museum exhibits on US presidents, too, passing through Smithsonian even. But I remember most that of Lyndon Johnson because it was the last I’ve been to in Austin, Tx. No unusual detail though stuck to my mind except some of his pictures with Marcos. They were great allies and friends. LBJ paid him a state visit not just once.

    Of Marcos, of course, the world would see him now in no other light than through his wife’s collection of a thousand shoes. I still can’t say exactly how I feel about this. It is of his still unburied body preserved in a frozen chamber at his home turned museum in my home province in the north, Ilocos Norte, that I can’t bear to think about because it’s quite macabre–it’s displayed on a glass covered coffin, an uncorroded figure in wax. Imelda and the family insist he should be buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani (Memorial Park for Heroes), which no president after him especially Cory Aquino, the widow of his slain rival, Ninoy Aquino, would allow.

    the straw hero
    finds no ground

  5. wow. aloha to all – from post through comments. dynamic. wow. – eye to eye made me smile Margaret. and yeah, i have to laugh regarding David’s question ku too – it’s so funny how often now we work on holidays – and it’s expected. or not. very cool stuff you’re going about Melissa, yeah, that would fascinate me as well. and Alegria – that is a gem ku of yours. there is a lot of stuff floating around the islands regarding the Marcos as well – it’s so difficult to know what is real and what is media-fiction sometimes now – even when it’s reported as “news”.

    wow again on special memories from museums. i hadnt thought about my museum going days in quite that way. now that i do… i’m overwhelmed. the warrior-artist drawings on hides and in trophy ledgers at the chicago museum – that was awe-humbling. so many artist haunts – where el greco painted in toledo (yeah, spain tho) and Matisse and Renoir and Van Gogh and – okay let’s let that go because i found every detail of those places to be eye stoppers – their paint tins and tubes and brushes and gobbed palettes and eye glasses and hats. ..and and… and oh, in the Smithsonian, down under… sheesh what are those rooms called? some of my favorite works there – two bonsai very simple paintings. not to mention a lot of other… oh and the tools of prehistory peoples… and archeological discoveries across the planet… …and… okay, i’ll keep it people related as this is president focused – president – that would be leader, yes? every human being is a leader, arnt we? we all count. oh, the wooden bowls of… or the small living spaces of sugar cane workers here on the islands, and… oh.. you know.. in indonesia… exploring caves where japanese soldiers lived and hid out during WW2 – the debri still there of old army cups, and broken glass bits and bottles and saki containers and rusted lanterns and on and on… sheesh. old dump sites of pioneer days around cabins across the USA – a Conestoga wagon wheel hub in a creek – Sucker Creek actually – in Oregon or on site locations in the UK of castles or the stone monuments of prehistory Europe or in Latin America of ancient peoples and bits of pottery decorated and bits of metals, bones, clay, beads and… yeah, how can i pick one? or ten? or the Roman forum? or… sheesh wow.

    a museum
    the planet earth record
    of human being

    • oh. p.s. a lock of hair was a very common thing to give between lovers at one time. or to soldiers going off to war. also to keep from a child by mother or parents or grandparents. i’d bet you can still find these kinds of “keepsakes” in envelopes in attics across the nation and probably the planet too…

      • Yes. I have a hair “bracelet” that was my grandmother’s. And that reminds me . . . I went to a museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, once that had a whole section of hair “ornaments.” Interesting. But George’s hair is my only presidential sighting, and I was shocked to see the color (because we’re so used to seeing the white powdered wig)!

    • Fascinating, Wrick! Sugar cane workers and Japanese soldiers . . . wow! Maybe you should write 10! Love your ku!
      Best, Margaret

      • yeah, i’ve been thinking about this museum stuff. that is such a lot of it. i didnt realize how much i’ve gone – or actually i’ve always felt like i’ve never gone often enough. that stuff always fascinates me tho. may be it’s being human that fascinates me? we are a curious creature.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s