Your Morning Misty Memory

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Photo: Dennis Cook/AP)

This is just for the hell of it, because I had cause to think of it the other day. Never mind.

Hart Seely for Slate, circa 2003:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is an accomplished man. Not only is he guiding the war in Iraq, he has been a pilot, a congressman, an ambassador, a businessman, and a civil servant. But few Americans know that he is also a poet.

Until now, the secretary’s poetry has found only a small and skeptical audience: the Pentagon press corps. Every day, Rumsfeld regales reporters with his jazzy, impromptu riffs. Few of them seem to appreciate it.

But we should all be listening. Rumsfeld’s poetry is paradoxical: It uses playful language to address the most somber subjects: war, terrorism, mortality. Much of it is about indirection and evasion: He never faces his subjects head on but weaves away, letting inversions and repetitions confuse and beguile. His work, with its dedication to the fractured rhythms of the plainspoken vernacular, is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams’. Some readers may find that Rumsfeld’s gift for offhand, quotidian pronouncements is as entrancing as Frank O’Hara’s.

And as much of a joke as it seems, in a way it really isn’t. Those who haven’t rewritten those sectors of their memory might recall the infamous riff about “The Unknown”, but it is also true that there is something about “Glass Box” that really does count as my favorite.

Glass Box

You know, it’s the old glass box at the—

At the gas station,

Where you’re using those little things

Trying to pick up the prize,

And you can’t find it.

It’s—


And it’s all these arms are going down in there,

And so you keep dropping it

And picking it up again and moving it,

But—


Some of you are probably too young to remember those—

Those glass boxes,

But—


But they used to have them

At all the gas stations

When I was a kid.

Yes, really.

This is still pretty amazing stuff.

____________________

Image Note: Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Photo: Dennis Cook/AP)

Seely, Hart. “The Poetry of D. H. Rumsfeld”. Slate. 2 April 2003.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s