Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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The Gentleman

Captain Harlan T. Nelson, stationed
at the White House as a guard,
  often saw the president talking

with a stray dog in his office or
as he walked to the War Department.
  Wandering through the house

these lost souls roamed the halls
with their tongues lolling out or
  barking suddenly at the mirrors—

but one day late in September
a Scottish terrier click-
  clicked slowly into the office

and jumped onto the sofa
where Lincoln was studying maps
  and the dog sat there scratching

at a flea and then said, “I’m having
some problems with my health,”
  and Lincoln turned and

understood being himself exhausted
to the bone which the terrier
  sensed and so they spoke awhile

of the cause of the Union
and the trouble with generals
  who will not fight and of the arc

and flight of hickory sticks
thrown really heaved up into
  the blue sky so that it seems

they will never come down,
“Just floating,” he said, “as if
  by magic.” “Yes,” said the other,

“the one thing that would redeem
everything else in life that is ruin
  and loss.” “Yes, magic,” he said,

“and love.” Two sparrows flickered
fighting in the boxwood outside
  making the branches spring

and the gentleman suddenly
noticed the time, shook the hand
  he was offered and wandered off

through the ornate hallways down
the front yard slowly towards
  the slaughterhouse and the wharf.    

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