Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Obama Speaking in Front of the Turkey Eagle

President Obama is addressing the nation,
speaking to the cadets at West Point,
talking in front of a blue eagle flag,
the shield over the eagle chest, a target,
a barber's pole of blood and bandages.
(Franklin wanted the bird to be a turkey;
other Fathers chose the steel-talon eagle.
We savor Ben's passion each Thanksgiving.)
President Obama is counting the sacrifices:
all the letters he must write to each and
every family -- the families of the fallen,
all serving multiple tours, moving targets,
boots shuffling in the dust to their destiny.
President Obama is addressing the families
sitting with the corpses of their loved ones.

Christopher T. George

Chen-ou Liu at Wild Poetry Forum kindly pointed out that the following in regard to my statement, "Franklin wanted the bird to be a turkey":

"This is based on popular legend. In the letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin made a reference to the Bald Eagle and the Wild Turkey as a satirical comparison between the Society of the Cincinnati and Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. He never supported the Wild Turkey as a symbol of the United States.

"Chris, an engaging read. Your poem proves that the poetic is the political.


Of course just as John Keats was wrong in his sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" about Cortez seeing the Pacific, I think I can be allowed a bit of leeway here.

The following seems to be the truth about Ben Franklin, the eagle, and the turkey, as extracted from his writings:

Franklin was actually talking about the look of the eagle on the First Great Seal of the United States. See below:

"For my own part I wish the Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

"With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our country...

"I am on this account not displeased that the figure is not known as a Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. [Emphasis mine.] For the truth the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on."