As Lovely & Fucked-up as the 4th of July

In the same way that I am tempted to end
this poem with the wind fluttering the white curtain
through my open bedroom window, I am sure

that somewhere, some time, Jefferson was a good man
who truly lived—peeling, in one single strip, an apple, ruddy
as the cheeks of the mulatto girls he fathered. Everything

is like something else, and in this likeness
reveals some hidden truth about the thing
it’s like—except, of course, when you fervently try to imagine

another, separate Internet, and are stumped, because the Internet is
like the universe, is everything, expanding into nothing to create
more of itself. Today, I read an article that depressed me,

awfully: a father in Manhattan doing his daughter’s homework
alongside her, with her, at the same time, two worlds
contained, pouring forth their knowledge, the daughter

because who knows, she is white, because she has to, because
she believes a kind of pinnacle waits at the end of all this algebra,
these irregular Spanish verbs; the father because he thinks

it is too much, because if he can’t stand it, she can’t. Who knows
if this is true, if the daughter isn’t designed with the strength of the woman
I heard the other day on public radio—460 days chained

in a Somali bathroom, whittling a dice out of acetaminophen
tablets, crafting escape from nail clippers and some fine fiber
of life, wound in the body’s sharp claws, the mind’s hollow

boxes, the breath’s figure eights. The father in Manhattan
attends his daughter’s school’s Revolutionary War “celebration,”
he writes in a vaguely mocking tone of its discussion

of women’s roles, in a vaguely defeated tone of email chains
with the teacher’s name removed, in a vaguely withering, or withered,
tone of his other, jealous daughter, plopped for the purposes

of this experiment in front of the TV, and at every turn, I see
his critique and I critique his critique, and I want to cry. I want
to go to sleep. His teacherless email chain vanquishes and destroys

one kind of thought, makes way for the next. Brush away
the sediment, it’s all clown cars and a tipping of the scales, it’s all
pedagogy and the way even I might say to my best friend, low

income, mostly black… Tell me how to tell the blank white
faces facing me each day about a history without a gloss: Jefferson
perpetually raping, perpetually raising a Georgian tower, Jefferson

kissing his daughters good-night, Jefferson expanded and shrunk,
a universe as lovely and fucked-up as the 4th of July— history is made
of folks still willing to breathe in, breathe out, while sawing

through a shackle with a nail file,  by the man who nods off, just outside
the door. I bet that father in Manhattan is a good man. I bet
his daughters have ruddy cheeks and will someday be threatened by a man.

I bet the wind in lower Chelsea takes the curtain in his window by the throat.


About evanduyne

I'm assistant professor of writing at Stockton University, where I'm also affiliated faculty in the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. I work on Sylvia Plath, contingent faculty, and creative writing around trauma and domestic violence.
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