Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Cupola

image borrowed from bing

The Cupola

“Mankind, when left to themselves, are not
fit for their own government.”--George Washington

I left D.C. at 6:30 a.m. on an already hot July morning,
driving fast over the Memorial Bridge, hell bent South
the 16 miles to Mt. Vernon, Virginia; finally taking time
to check out George’s crib.

The estate is vast, almost a colonial village in itself.
The Mansion stands at the north end, like a great
white patriarchal crown, with its red roof shining.
Strolling around the large circular drive I passed
a plaque that read First in War--First in Peace. 

I was determined to get my 17 bucks worth. Entering
the front door, I slid past the first floor guard and scoped
out the Central Passage, being irritated by the large
plastic shields that blocked access to most of the rooms,
all smelling strongly of cleansing supplies, old fabric,
shellac & dust.

Climbing a tall staircase I found the second floor
to be charming, but rather austere. This is where
Martha had all the plethora of guest rooms. 
We all could peek into the Lafayette bedroom; 
big deal.

At the back side I noticed there was an ornate circular
staircase that wound itself like a sweetly carved serpent
up to the third floor, to the Cupola, proudly wearing
its Dove of Peace weather vane. It was posted as
CLOSED--except for two days during the Christmas season.

I sat on a hard bench staring at the serpentine seductress 
for a hour, then suddenly noticing a rare moment when
guests and guides were absent. Without hesitation
I crawled over the low gate and quickly made my way
up to the forbidden third floor. 

I burst victoriously into a huge round room that was
completely surrounded by large paned leaded glass
windows, with a 360 degree view of the compound.

I was quite surprised to find someone else there,
a tall man seated at a desk with his wide back to me,
dressed appropriately in a dark 16th century costume,
his long hair tied back, and powdered, not favoring a wig.

He stood up and turned around--
Christ, it was old George himself.

“What are you, some kind of Disney hologram?”

“No,” he said, flashing his perfectly white elephant ivory
dentures, “I own the place. Sit down, brave sir. Let’s have
a chat. I don’t get many visitors up here.”

My amazed expression must have amused him.

Let me answer some of your obvious questions. I am 6’ 2”,
quite tall for my time, and yes, I know Lincoln was 6’4”.
No, I never had a pair of wooden teeth. In my day dentists
carved dentures out of ivory, but they never really fit properly
and they gave me constant pain, and yes, I did use
laudanum regularly to manage the discomfort.”

“What do you think of our gun control issues?” I stammered.

“Firearms for all Americans are essential, for without them
their liberty is barren & toothless. Did you know that I only
had one real tooth left when I became President?”

“Did you really free all of your slaves in your will?”

Yes, and I really hoped that one day there would be a plan adopted
for the abolition of slavery.”

“How do you think we are really doing with our Civil Rights issues?”

There are important strides that have been taken, but racism
is a rabid rotting fungus, and it is difficult to completely eradicate;
but I will say that Obama as a twice-elected President brightens
every one of my dark days.”

“So, how are we doing so far?”

“Remember government is not reason, it is not eloquent, 
it is a force like fire--a dangerous servant and a
fearful master.”

“Who the hell are you talking to?” came a voice behind me.
I turned to face a security guard wearing a three corned hat.

“Ah, nobody really, I was just practicing my Civics speech.”

I was escorted roughly from the Mansion, and driven in
a red-white-& blue golf cart to my vehicle. I was informed
that my name would now appear on a NOT ABLE TO VISIT
list, and that I would not be welcome for a return visit--
but I still am very curious as to what the slave quarters
looked like. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets-Poetics

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Mary said...

This was a very cool write, Glenn. Would be amazing to be able to talk to him and ask him a few questions. Good for him for having freed all his slaves in his will. I hadn't realized that! Oh...and those teeth...glad to hear the story behind them!

Brian Miller said...

government as "a dangerous servant and a
fearful master." so true...really cool meeting you describe g...i like how you kept it in present time...visiting his place and finding him there...his thoughts echo forward don't they...being a bootlegger, i would hope he might share a cup with you as well...smiles..ha, funny his return to talking about his teeth as well...

Claudia said...

very cool poem glenn...i like how you pack some small talk about his teeth in as well as really tight political would've been awesome to talk to him for sure.. a shame that guard interrupted you

Anonymous said...

Wow - really interesting - would be so cool to be able to chat with him - & isn't it funny, I remember that antiseptic smell when touring MtVernon - love all the details of this - really brings a clear vision. K

brudberg said...

This is a very interesting read. Packed with info and politics Great Job.

1emeraldcity said...

wonderful narrative poem filled with imagination and history tidbits. Enjoyed much!

Susan Daniels said...

Fantastic read, Glenn. I would like to ask him a question or two myself.

Tashtoo said...

Fantastic work...not that we aren't used to that...but this particularly, despite the subject, is timely and current. Love how you were able to bring wisdom forth in a setting that is absolutely complete for every sense..and I might have jumped a little too.

mrs mediocrity said...

Ha, this was so cool, a fabulous story in a story... you have to wonder what he would think of our country, our government these days. I have a feeling you'll be sneaking back in... ;-)

Anonymous said...

A really informative poem, and I too now want to know what the slave quarters looked like.

Laurie Kolp said...

I adore this, Glenn... you naughty thing sneaking up to the third floor to see George.

The Zen of Gavin said...

Poetic walk through history, nicely done and a lot of good info.

Patricia said...

Love, love, loved this!! So creative and a delight to read, Glenn. = )

Victoria said...

Wonderful, information packed write, Glenn. We need his wisdom!

Anonymous said...

Perfect! Yes I love the direct questions n answers. You picked a good one n I've been there, awesome. There was no plastic. Third floor, very creative !

kelvin s.m. said...

...i like the humour & the brave take on this... wisdom packed & very telling... i would also love to talk with such a great & smart leader if given a chance & also explore the intriguing white house... excellent... smiles...

George Polley said...

I like it Glenn; thanks for sending it along to me.


Verla said...

This is cool!