"The Incumbent"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
June 20 2006 6:31 AM

"The Incumbent"

Click here to listen to Eric McHenry read this poem.

A root with no apparent source is shouldering up through the incoherent, ash-rich soil in which J.C. Hebbard's body lies a-mouldering,

and may topple his
eye-high obelisk.
Its attitude already
registers the breach.

He made one modest run
for secretary of state,
pulling about fifteen
percent, like every Green-
back Labor candidate,

signed on as Sockless Jerry
Simpson's secretary
and rode the Populist
groundswell to Washington,

then came home to this last
unelected office.
That's one thing cemeteries
have going for them: low
turnover, and yet here he's
about to be unseated
by the one errant surface
root of a distant oak.

Down there among the others,
his casket-husk must look
like a dismasted ship
or sperm whale in the grip
of something legendary.

My great-great-great-grandfather's
monument takes a bow,
and threatens, with the shadow
of its attenuated
capital, the rest
of his west-tending row.
I love this cemetery's
asymmetries, although
it must be hell to mow.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Uh-Oh. The World’s Oceans Have Broken Their All-Time Heat Record.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

The NFL Should Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status, Which It Never Should Have Had Anyway

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 18 2014 6:52 PM Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters  Colorado Democrats and Republicans are testing theories for reaching women that will resonate far beyond the Rocky Mountains.  
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 3:30 PM How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.