Hidden Springs, Delicate Wheels: The Tomb Of Ann Rutledge


[to her memory---the foremost Muse of the American nation as it now exists]


For so long, Lincoln seemed sad, draped in mourning.
Even his humor gave the vague impression
that it was just a brief respite from sorrow---
avoided for the moment, but the morrow
would bring it back, uncharitably, with gall---
like the malicious specter of secession,
that sordid shadow arrogantly scorning
the Founders' sacred Union.  Came the warning
amid the tears' hot spill and taste of bile
after his sole Beloved passed away.
Unable to forestall that loss, then, he
became the instrument of Destiny
later---no malice, "charity toward all . . ."
until his warfare ended.  Then, a smile
returned, with one last sigh, as a new day---
endless; with Ann---began on that spring morning.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

The Muse-ship of Ann Rutledge to the nation is Edgar Lee Masters' idea, not mine (although I subscribe to it wholeheartedly).  The words quoted are Lincoln's, which, so suggests Masters (in Ann's epitaph in The Spoon River Anthology) were inspired by her.  The vision of Ann, in Heaven, as Lincoln expired is my contribution.

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Hidden Springs, Delicate Wheels: The Tomb Of Abraham Lincoln

He saw the issue in a simile's
terms:  that, upon this nation, slavery's
effects were like the symptoms of disease---
debilitating and incurable;
to severance of the body from its soul;
in suffering too slowly terminal;
too grimly final in a weed-grown grace.
A young man, he was not able to save
(but only mourn) his sole beloved, Ann.
But, as the poet wrote, their separation
prepared him for another loss, so sore
that he must stave it off---even with war.
In her name, and all for her sake, this Man
was called by Providence to save the nation.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

The poem alludes to Edgar Lee Masters (mentioned as "the poet"), whose epitaph for Ann Rutledge appears in The Spoon River Anthology.  I believe the loss of Ann Rutledge illustrated, for Lincoln, the loss of the States' union if secession was allowed to proceed (and, if allowed, the continued misery of the enslaved peoples); that Lincoln came to understand the broadest possible misery (threatened by both the secession and the continuation of chattel slavery) in the profoundest personal terms, the loss of Ann Rutledge to death.

The reader is referred to a previous poem, "At Mrs. Lincoln's Discomfort" for some comments on William Herndon's original research on Ann Rutledge.

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Hidden Springs, Delicate Wheels: Mrs. Lincoln's Discomfort

His presidency was much like our marriage:
he held it as a sacred trust and duty,
humble before it and upright in carriage.
But always distant was the joy and beauty,
always somehow removed in time, concealed
beneath a graveyard, then a battlefield.
He was wrong:  she was not out there alone
(thus, he was often upset by foul weather,
westward):  for underneath that small headstone,
he had interred, for all those years, his heart---
the whole for her, Ann Rutledge!, and no part
for me (not even for a little while).
And, at his last breath, came the final smile,
now that they were, again . . . ever . . . together.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

The poem alludes to Lincoln's great love for Ann Rutledge, and its termination (by her death) as the cause of his abiding melancholy.  In the aftermath of her death, he was known to be distressed by nightfall or bad weather, thinking that she was---as he put it---"out there all alone."  According to some accounts, at his last drawn breath, on the morning after the assassination, he smiled broadly and then expired; and I believe (and herein is the poem's only original concept) that, upon his entrance into Heaven, Christ gave him the privilege that Ann was the first person he saw there.

The romance was first proposed by William Herndon, Lincoln's former law partner and first biographer.  Herndon's work was later attacked by scholars on the basis, as far as I can tell in my reading, of four points:  1.) that he manufactured it; 2) that it was provided by oral written recollection rather than objective documentation; 3) that, being a part-time drunk, his research was unreliable; and 4) that his primary motive was to embarrass Mary Lincoln, the slain President's widow.  I offer the following responses to these points.  Obviously, the first and second points cancel each other out.  In regard to the first point, Herndon's several correspondents already knew of the romance (although Herndon, himself, also knew of it directly from Lincoln).  Second, oral history is neither unreliable, nor assailable for its own sake, as it is also the source of at least one of the Gospels (Luke's, cf. Luke 1:2) and is also cited as authoritative in Hebrews 2:1 and 3.  Third, Herndon's problem with alcohol is documented, but if I had, for example, discounted from my college experience any information provided by a drunk, I would not have had enough credits to obtain a degree.  Fourth, Herndon's desire to embarrass Mrs. Lincoln is also documented, but, while personally questionable, it does not make the romance either the purpose or the centerpiece of his years of research (which was motivated, as he proved, by a desire simply to gather every possible account of every possible moment of Lincoln's life).

As a poet, however, and not a professional scholar, I believe we can profitably accuse certain professional historians of extreme bias against Ann Rutledge, virtually victimizing her in order to punish Herndon for his shortcomings (of which he had several), or in a kind of chivalrous defense of Mrs. Lincoln's status.

In this poem, and my others on Ann Rutledge, I acknowledge, and gladly defer to, the poet Edgar Lee Masters, whose epitaph for Ann, published in The Spoon River Anthology, is one of the greatest poetic statements ever written.

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Past is Gone

Never to be seen again; the past.

Looking back, into the hour glass.

Flying by; slipping our grasp.

Watching the sands of time—disappear;

Into the ocean—drops a single tear.

Washed away, as memories fade;

Promises of hope and love—forgotten;

Soon again—your heart be broken.

Endless cycles, as we grow older;

Never young again.

Wishing the haunting ugliness away;

Attempting to hold onto beauty;

Failure seeps in—no more trying.

Let it go; the past is behind us.

We have no choice; face the reality,

Of the winding roads—

Through the lives we lead.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Written in 2003

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This Letter To You

I'm on my last sheet of paper,


As I write this letter to you.


Where were you last December,


When I was longing for your touch?


I spoke last week, to your brother.


He hasn't seen you in a month.


I still lay alone, thinking of you.


There's no one else out there,


Better for me, than you


I saw your older sister not so long ago;


She says you've taken the wrong path,


But I would never believe that to be true.


You've always been so perfect, to me.


I saw your friend the other day,


And he told me he hasn't heard from you;


But he gave me this old address.


So here I write, for my own sanity;


In hope that I have finally found my love;


Whom I lost so long ago.


Just give me a sign, an answer—


So I can sleep peacefully again.


I need to know you are still alive.


Love... me, your one and only.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Written in 2001

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I'm curious as to what your words will be

you do realize i have another life

long have i changed form shallow and dark

have you come to terms with my old addictions

did you realize i was running from pain

young and foolish i was but that is no excuse

do you want to clear the air

cast out all that is haunting you

are you ready to move on or maybe you have

do you want me to touch your heart with words

have you hungered for my whispers

i spoke of things that made your soul grow

i gave life to your eyes, a reason to smile

is that what you remember of me,i am curious

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Mejunje Historico


Con la explosión de un tambor,
Mano negra, rítmica y dura,
grifería Africana, irrefutable.

Indígena caribeños,
Bohío de vida cacera, areito comunal
Nuestra herencia Taina.

Sangre codiciosa,
conquistador vicioso,
vergonzosa realidad.

Mejunje encantado,
de culturas y penar
Sazón de pimienta y sal.

Cuando es ritmo,
Cuando es poesía y canción,
Cuando es dolor y angustia.

Filántropos rencores,
Insaciables suspiros,
realidad Borincana.

Abraza lo que eres,
entiende lo que fuiste,
defiende el sino del futuro.

Grifo de pasas y penas,
codicia española esclava,
Carimbo religioso de amor.

Dichos callejeros,
ecos ancestrales,
de realidades desnudas!!


 ©Rolando Matias

   BMI 2010)
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This Too Shall Pass

I promise you that this will pass

This aching hurting will not last

And if you feel as if you're breaking

And it seems you can't keep taking another breath

Close your eyes and just remember the good times you had

I know it's hard I've been where you are to tell you the truth

I once liked this boy

Who took me for granted

Used me up until there was nothing left

Strung me along like a puppet on a string

But despite my broken heart and ruined spirit

I told him I would always be there for him no matter what

I dealt with the pain and all his ways and it hurt me badly

As he traveled along on his journey

He told me he would never forget about me while he was away

Though he lied, I understand why...

He did not love me

But I forgive him

There is still a place where his memory stays in my heart

But I realize that the day has come where we will part

Many great memories and unforgettable days and nights

Are now in a locked box ready to take flight

And until the day that we meet again, in my heart is where I'll keep you friend...Friend...that sounds nice maybe we can be again

And on that day that he decides to open up and attempt talking to me, here I'll be waiting..like I always said I would...

Author's Notes/Comments: 

I wrote this to explain my past love and what happened, it ended abruptly but in the end, it was for the best.

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Forgive me.

Past Loves

I made myself think you never loved me,

I made myself think you never cared

I hurt you on purpose, lied and made you sad.

You didn't want me anymore,

so hurting you was all I had.

When I tried to take you back,

and you almost let me in...

the pain I felt when you said no,

fueled my every sin.

If I make myself think about the words you wrote to me,

all the notes and poems, that I will never again see...

I'll regret the pain I imposed upon you,

and how I could hurt a love so true.

We always said we would withstand the test of time,

but when it came down to leaving the fault has

always been mine.

I'm sorry for the way you felt

and I'm sorry for the lies.

I'm sorry for the pain I see

when I look into your eyes.

Please forgive me someday,

beacause what I said was true.

I will love you for everything you

are or ever will be, I will always love

you for you.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

I'd like to start off by saying I love my husband,and he means the world to me. The love I feel in this poem is different from that I feel for Josh. With that being said...
In everything I've ever written about an ex, I have blamed him. I have said it was him who hurt me and that everything was his fault, but I guess today I felt the need to write this to just say I'm sorry. I guess when you look back 6 years ago, that person really did love me and I did my fair share of hurting him. So I'm sorry for hurting you, I never realized how much you cared, even if you don't so much anymore. You know who you are, if you even still read these, but I really am sorry and I'm sorry for all the hurt I have caused you over the last almost 9 years. You're a good person and any woman would be lucky to have you.

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