Epistle to Theodore Roosevelt
by Patrick Granata
Our country means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy, of an
economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to
show the best that there is in him.
Teddy, down on the bottom of Sagamore Hill, 1
Eel Creek still meanders through forested hills
of oak, tulip, and white pine
before emptying into Cold Spring Harbor.
From the shoreline the sun still
begins to go down beyond long reaches of water and land
now dotted by stately mansions and manor homes,
that peak out from holes in the woods atop the bluffs
that surround your “Summer White House.”
A sign on the opposite bank reads:
“Private Property: All trespassers will be arrested!”
showing the very best there is in them,
thanks to this democracy, this economic system.
Paying no heed, Canada geese land beyond and peck the ground.
Obediently I stay on the proper side of the demarcation,
on the land now held in reserve by
the United States Department of the Interior.
I walk beside the harbor.
Sometimes I wade in her, but she makes me feel
sleepy and sticky afterwards
so I lay in the icy stream that has just skipped off the glacial moraine.
I bloody my shins when I scramble up the rocky bank,
and I laugh, and think about
The snows and bare woods of winter;
the deep leafy shades that are heralded by the green dance of summer
and the sharp fall winds that tear the brilliant banners
with which the trees greet the dying year.
As I lay drying in the sun on this bed of glacial remnants,
I think of Sagamore Mohannis,
the last of his people to walk in our collective homeland.
The same one you purchased for $20,000,
that Sagamore Mohannis sold to your forebears
for some coats and about sixty bushels of corn,
that I now lay on with our country’s history for a pillow,
amazed it now belongs to everyone once again.
As it once did. As it always has…
between the hours of nine and five, of course, excluding holidays.
1From the Algonquian word sὰkəmα, meaning “strong man,” “chief,” or “head of the tribe.”