"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

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

The Only Good Thing That Happened at Today’s Soul-Crushing U.N. Climate Talks

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  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.