© Steve King
All rights reserved
For years, my family kept an ancient stand
to guard the foyer of the old homestead.
It stood with brass fixtures and mottled glass
amid the shadows of the entry way.
I can remember hearing stories told
by white-haired women long enough in life
to have no time nor reason left to lie,
of how the stately piece had onetime stood
in Mr. Stanton's hallway through the war,
and how the president would stoop to don
that quaint, ungainly stovepipe that he wore,
and linger at the mirror 'til he found
the look that he would carry out the door.
I'd sit expectant in the darkened hall
and stare into the worn silver until
my eyes beheld his features staring back.
I built his form each time from memory:
a face that found its shape in deep-hewn lines;
the gangling frame, with hands that knew the feel
of something rougher than a cabinet brief;
the rounded shoulders, heavy then with grief,
perhaps as he set out for Gettysburgh...
At last, I'd find the caverns of his eyes.
I'd wonder how it was that mirror glass
could play such somber tricks with common light.
Peering through the solemn depths, I'd see
the dark and troubling vision that he kept,
and feel the flood of sadness that was said
to permeate much of his waking thought:
a melancholy that surpassed the heights
from which he looked upon his riven world;
not just a longing for a peaceful end
to the great madness that was going 'round,
nor dread about the outcome of the task,
or how he'd make the shattered pieces mend.
In the gathering shadows of the hall,
I came to feel the content of his fear:
he knew that he must always stand alone
against the currents of the parting time.
It was the solitude that haunted him,
the knowledge that he was the only one
to bear the onus of what must be done.
I would stay until the light had changed,
until the captive visage was exchanged
for my own features staring blankly on,
emerging by degree out from the shape
of the spirit whose eminence remained
then only as an accent to the shade,
submerging in the limitless fathoms
of imagined refractions in the glass.
Then would I find my solitary way
back through the light and noise that filled the house,
not wanting yet to share my reflections,
nor sure the image could supply the word.
I wondered how to speak of sadness then,
how I could find the way to willing hearers,
to say the tale of Mr. Lincoln's face,
and of the weight of shadows in a mirror.
(Note: This is the very first poem I posted on Excursions and Diversions. Long ago, in the course of my creative, though inexact, blog editing, I somehow managed to delete it. I thought it was time it returned to its rightful home.)
A post for the Poetry Pantry