Julia Nunnally Duncan
I lost interest in politics
when my father died.
A Yellow Dog Democrat,
he trained me from babyhood
to revere Roosevelt,
stand up for the working class,
and never high-hat anyone
as he had been high-hatted on Main Street
when he walked from the hosiery mill in work clothes
and was snubbed by one who dressed better
and seemed ashamed to speak to him
though they were friends.
He never forgot that slight.
So his fight became mine.
As a girl, in ’69,
I defended Ted Kennedy,
though I was too infatuated to see
what his actions implied.
My father didn’t say much
while Clinton was in,
kept tight-lipped then,
but cast a straight Democratic ticket
when I drove him into town to vote
that final time in 2000.
He sported his I Voted sticker
on the drive home,
but from then on
I sensed all was not right.
Four years later,
when voting time came around again,
he didn’t ask me to drive him
to the polls.
I knew something in his mind had gone away,
and the rest of him would follow bit by bit,
day by day.
And since his death,
much of my Democratic spirit rests
with him at Memorial Park.
So when I hear one politician
bark at the other
over the economy or the other’s inadequacy,
I shake my head and think
Will any of this matter anyhow
when we die?
Then I seem to hear my father’s voice say,
but it matters now.
Author’s Comment: When I was a child at family gatherings, I remember men sitting around smoking cigarettes and talking politics. I stayed with my father during these discussions, rather than with my mother and women relatives who congregated in another room. I understood that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was someone who had stood up for the working man. My father spoke of him often. In my father’s last years, when I drove him to the polls, I saw how important voting was to him. I’m glad I shared this experience with him and wanted to capture it in a poem.
Bio: Julia Nunnally Duncan is an award-winning poet and fiction writer whose publication credits include seven books of fiction and poetry. She lives in Marion, NC, with her husband Steve and their daughter Annie. She teaches English and Southern Culture at McDowell Technical Community College and continues to write poetry, fiction, and essays.
I admire the journey into the past that this savors–the way it forces everything right back into the present.
I often feel that way about politics as I see the same things just recycled by new generations. But I still feel compelled to vote at election time. Great poem.