'He was a calm man, a useful attribute for sending young men to their deaths'

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Nearly all of us have a story about once brushing up against somebody famous. On their honeymoon my father and mother went to New York City where they rode up in a hotel elevator with the famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. My father talked about those heady few moments for the rest of his life. Here's Carol V Davis of Los Angeles, pitching horseshoes with an admiral. This poem is from her most recent book, Because I Cannot Leave This Body, from Truman State University Press. 



by Carol V Davis 

Every day in summer I'd cross the border;
he'd nod, pick up the horseshoes,
hand me one, triple the size
of my palm, and say, You first. We'd play
away the afternoon. Few words
punctuated the clank of horseshoe
against stake, until the fog rolled in
and I'd retrace my steps home.
I was five or six; he, white haired,
however old that meant.

One evening my father sat me down,
spoke in the exaggerated tone
adults adapt for children, asked
if I knew who he was.
Admiral Nimitz, of course, though
I knew nothing of his command
of the Pacific Fleet and was less impressed
than if he'd landed a horseshoe.

He was a calm man, a useful attribute
for sending young men to their deaths.
The only time I saw him upset,
raccoons had invaded from their hideouts
in the hills, attacked the goldfish in his pond,
leaving muddy footprints as they escaped.
As far as I knew, this was his only defeat. 


American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem ©2016 by Carol V Davis, 'Admiral Nimitz', from Because I Cannot Leave This Body, (Truman State University Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Carol V Davis and the publisher. Poem first appeared in Atlanta Review, (Vol. XXII, no.2, Spring/Summer 2016). Introduction ©2017 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.



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M.C. Newberry

Sun 19th Mar 2017 16:52

I guess that "calm" equates with the detached frame of
mind needed to make unpalatable decisions in war. But
who knows how a man sleeps at night in later years?
Do those many faces and the sounds of combat return
to provide a ceaseless commentary on the decisions
taken in other risk-filled times?

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