The Spectator

He was adept at conveying 

benevolent feelings listeners wanted 

to share, that could lead 

to benevolent actions. 

In the speeches he gave 

in the wake of mass killings 

he seemed in his element. 

Not only in Newtown 

but Aurora, Fort Hood, 

in Tucson and after the marathon 


grief-counselling the bereft 

homeowners and local officials 

granting funds in the aftermath 

of recent hurricanes 

He delivered compassion 

with kind face from a decorous 

yet understated height. That 

seemed to be the role he liked 

to play on the world stage too. 

Doubtless it was the posture 

he’d have preferred for the Spring, 

or for that matter the civil war 

if only the stubborn leader had obeyed 

when he said it was time to go 


They said he had a wish to help 

that was larger-spirited 

than any of his predecessors 

though caution bordering 

on timidness kept him 

from speaking with Carter just once. 

He rooted for the good cause 

but ended up endorsing 

the acceptable on which 

the satisfied have always agreed. 

Watching over our world, 

he was its most benevolent spectator. 

- from A MORE PERFECT UNION: A SERIAL POEM (forthcoming)