Brett Thompson

An Elegy for Richard Nixon

Blood and Earth by Rolf Aamot

Look, I have been trying too hard
to start this poem. I wanted to say
some of us still love this man,
that when we wake in the morning
it’s still cold and empty, without
him. So God bless us if we think
a part of ourselves was buried
with him that April, if we think
compared to him, everyone else
was a small being in his great light,
and now, his long shadow.

But instead, this is what comes out:
father in 71’, not yet 4-F
for a bum elbow. I see his strong back
bent before the doctor’s  silver probe,
his skin shivering against the needle’s
cold pinch. Richard, he is going to Nam
he is losing my mother, his heart
is a red fluttering weight.
So when the sergeant hands over
the slip of paper, the blessed  pardon
I want to be there with him,
to hold him close to my body
as long as it takes to calm his body,
as many years as it takes to erase
the Vietnam
he never fought.

But what this is what comes out instead,
in April of  82’, Brett Thompson
is born. His middle name
Lewis, honors his Grandfather.
A man who fought in the second world war,
like you Richard. Twelve years
from my birth you are dead. That day
is no small thing. The world
thrust into mourning, black bunting
draped across the whole of the Capitol.
Your funeral day it downpours,
the place of your burial, a dark field
of blue and black, umbrellas
opened towards Heaven. The rain
will flow down your casket until
it stains the earth beneath our feet,
until you’re lowered back  into the ground,
until your poor heart is cleansed,
a pure being once again.

Stay with me now, Richard, in my
infancy. My father was in
his late twenties then, with a trim
mustache and an able Practice.
My grandfather still had a decade
of good life left! Let me
introduce you to all my beloved
I will let you hold me, let you whisper
all your fears. My father, my grandfather
and you, can stay in that place
as long as it takes to find what you seek.
Hell, if my becoming is what you need, so be it.
On your deathbed, I would have swallowed
the black stone that became the counterweight
in the chambers of your heart.
If it was possible to make you whole again
I would have, dear Richard.


About the writer:
Brett Thompson has been writing poetry since his graduate days at the University of New Hampshire where he earned a M.A. in English Writing with a concentration in poetry. He has been published in various journals, including Plainsongs, Tilde, District Lit, The Literary Nest, and Peregrine Journal. He teaches and lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two young daughters.

Image: Blood and Earth by Rolf Aamot (1934- ). Electronic painting. 180 x 120 cm. 2008. By free license.