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Poem August 2023

Washington as Count Dracula

Tryon Place, 1791

Washington comes in. He is wearing

black velvet with gold buckles at the knee

and foot,

a sword with finely wrought

steel hilt, in scabbard

of white leather,

a cocked hat with a cockade and a feather,

also black. His powdered hair

is gathered in a black silk bag.

His hands in gloves of yellow

clasp extended hands.

Above his head medallions

of King and Queen

flicker beneath dripping wicks, the little flames

in circles on the chandeliers

surrounded by bits of glass, like worlds

in the sky, the telescopes of astronomers.

The crystals like Newton’s prisms split

the flames, blue, yellow, red, violet.

As in the “The Masque of the Red Death”

the dance goes on in rooms, where colors

glint from rubies in women’s ears.

He bows deeply, his corneas

refract ideas: science

dances from tiaras, bracelets, rings.

The battle of Alamance

was lost. The Regulators’

defeat had finished the rebellion,

or so Tryon thought.

Washington’s eyes grow red.

He leads the minuet.

        — Paul Baker Newman