© 2018 THE LONG ISLAND LITERARY JOURNAL

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.

 

-Theodore Roosevelt

 

I

 

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.

 

II

 

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.”