Friday, September 4, 2009

A Poem for Senator Kennedy

The Man Who Should Be President
August 28, 2009

In memoriam: Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Feb. 22, 1932 – Aug. 25, 2009

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on,
the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."

--- speech conceding the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination.

Ted, headlines read of your passing,
Camelot Ends, Again;
Liberal Lion Dies;
A Torch Extinguished –

But we refuse to believe it.
You taught us better than that.
“I speak out of a deep sense of urgency
about the anguish and anxiety I have seen across America.”

The death of our Liberal Lion
Must not nullify his roar.
“The cause endures” in a jungle
Of disease, poverty, unemployment,
And every child left behind.
In a cacophony of conservative voices
You sang of Jefferson and Jackson,
Committed to jobs and health care
While opponents labeled you liberal,
Your laws and causes, Socialism.
But you knew better than that.
Which 300+ bills
You authored and enacted
Into law were written in the reddest ink?:
Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965,
National Cancer Act of 1971,
Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986,
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,
Ryan White AIDS Care Act in 1990,
Civil Rights Act of 1991,
Mental Health Parity Act in 1996 and 2008,
State Children's Health Insurance Program in 1997,
No Child Left Behind Act in 2002,
the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009,

Or was it several unsuccessful efforts at immigration reform?
Or Universal Health Care you championed since 1970?
In Camelot you would be King,
In America, the man who should be President.
Contemporary Ben Franklin,
Master Orator, Elder Statesman,
Super Diplomat, The Man
Who got the deed done,
White hopes shrouded
By the black cloak draping
Your desk, formerly your brother’s,
white roses in a black vase – a song of yourself,
The great “I” not individual
But communal, community, America.
Your 46 years in the chamber
Outlasted single- and two-term occupants
Of the Oval Office, 9 to be exact –
there would be no rest
For a Senator whose cigarette box
Engraving read, “The first shall be last.”
Good Catholic, Moses of the United States,
Your Old Testament values
Never shrugged due to New Testament politics,
And none of us have yet seen
The Liberal Land of milk and honey.
Though your body be dead
Your legacy is not.
Out of that deep sense of urgency
The cause must endure.
The sick must not get sicker,
The hungry not get hungrier
While the rich continue getting richer.
You vowed yourself to Whitman’s America,
Gave us a song and a dance and a dream.
Had you been President
America would be coughing less
And missing less time at work.
May every Patriotic American,
With Faith rooted in the Bill of Rights,
Get a tattoo of you on their Left arm,
The one they use in the voting booth,
Hoping to keep the American Dream alive
And showing that “the dream shall never die."

Joe Gouveia writes the monthly poetry column Meter Man for the Barnstable Patriot where this poem first appeared.

1 comment:

Ernie Wormwood said...

I admire everyone who falls, gets up, and moves on to do better and better. But it's as though Mary Jo Kopechne was erased once the inquest ended. I have two daughters--I can only imagine what I would do if someone drove them off a bridge in a car and reported it so much later, as in the person who drove lived and the passenger died. So I think perhaps the greatest talent of Senator Kennedy was his desire to keep working through issues regardless of party, his tenacity and ferociousness on the issues he was committed to. It is extremely difficult to imagine that I could have, through negligence, caused the death of another person, and been allowed to keep my life as Senator Kennedy did. I think if I had done this, there would have been a mandated autopsy for the forensics. I think he should have mentioned more often his regret for the loss of her life and what her parents lost. And No Child Left Behind has always been a disaster for public schools. So throwing the hero's mantle over Senator Kennedy is a bit much for this believer in consequences and accountability.