Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Poem for Tuesday

Hawthorne in Tuckerton
By Stephen Dunn

Like the other great ones he wouldn't vanish
into his own destiny, kept showing up
in different parts of America, small pious towns
like this one, wooded, where he trusted
that what thumped in the human heart
would manifest, make its old nightly rounds.

"Scratch an American," he was overheard saying
at the diner, "and you'll find a Puritan."
And one man nodded while another
in a John Deere cap swallowed hard,
changed the subject to the Phillies.
Hawthorne still loved the repressed, the avoided.

Nothing made him more alert than a large passion
twisted, coiled in the recesses of an innocent.
But something had changed.
People camped without fear in the piney forest,
were simply amused by tales of the Jersey Devil.
And Tuckerton now had its Seaport. Its Dimmesdales

and Rappacinis had a stake in the market.
Their daughters wore lipstick and openly danced
to loud music. Hawthorne began to feel like the ghost
he was. Grace, he lamented, was once so poignant
before this democratization of the sacred. Adultery
so much more interesting when everyone didn't commit it.


Am home, later than I expected because we decided to have lunch at Valley Forge and ended up spending nearly four hours there. I hadn't been to the park in probably 20 years, had never seen the film they now have in the visitor's center about Washington and his troops wintering in 1777-8 and though thinks we visited the chapel with his parents and brother, I didn't remember it. It was a gorgeous day, a little over 80 degrees but with a breeze; we joined up with a tour group for a little while near one of the reconstructed encampments where reenactors were talking about the clothing and food of the soldiers and giving a firing demonstration, then drove around to Washington's headquarters, the National Memorial Arch and some of the other reconstructed encampments and the church.

A reproduction of one of the cabins at Valley Forge that housed 12 or more soldiers during the American Revolution.

This is how the men lived in the barracks.

A reenactor demonstrates how the encampment was defended.

George Washington slept here...and Alexander Hamilton and other members of his staff. The buildings are all original, though the furniture is not.

Here is the office where Hamilton and the secretaries toiled.

Behind this cabin in the hills to the left, you can see the chapel.

The park is full of wildlife; a garter snake that showed up in the middle of the lecture on Continental food and medicine kept my kids from getting restless, and we saw at least 20 deer, which roam freely throughout the park and appear not to be at all afraid of tourists, even less so than the ones in Shenandoah National Park that we saw last weekend. We got shoefly pie in the little store by the church and drove home after seeing a glorious sunset. Tuesday will be much taken up with laundry but it was very well worth it!

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