It's just poetry, it won't bite

the deep dive


The Deep Dive is vox poetica‘s newest feature, in which poets take a closer look at the world around them by exploring a theme, an image, or a historic or current event and writing about it at length. To inquire about submitting to the Deep Dive series, email voxpoeticasubmissions@gmail.com with the subject line DEEP DIVE.

In this edition of “The Deep Dive,” we hear from Michael Ceraolo, who wrote the following to introduce this series of poems from his collection titled Eighty Days:

I chose first three days in a row, and then two days in a row, to give a sense of the ongoing narrative. The title of the project comes from the time period from July 2, 1881, when Charles J. Guiteau shot U.S. President James A. Garfield, through September 19, 1881 when Garfield died, and consists of dramatic monologues of varying lengths by Garfield and Guiteau for each of the eighty days. I make use of quotation from both, though some quotations didn’t occur on the days where I have them; e.g., during the period Garfield wrote only letter (to his mom) and didn’t make any entries in the journals he had been keeping for thirty years. Some of Garfield’s quotations were reported as such by his various visitors; some of Guiteau’s quotations came from newspaper reports as well as accounts of his later trial. Having immersed myself in their actual words, I felt able to imagine things they might have said to fill in the rest of the poem.

            August 26, 1881
 
Garfield:
Andrew Jackson once said,
when presented with something honoring his death,
that he declined the intended honor
Though we would be political opponents
were Jackson alive today,
I know now how he felt,
for reports of my death too
have been greatly exaggerated
Guiteau:
“In the President’s madness he has wrecked
the once grand old Republican party,
and for this he dies”

            August 27, 1881
 
Garfield:
“Oh yes,
I have always been conscious”
that the wound might some day prove fatal,
but I trust to Providence and the doctors
that such will not be the case
Guiteau:
“I am dead in earnest
in anything I do”

          August 28, 1881
 
Garfield:
I have heard I am the object
of prayers from people nationwide;
“I am glad of it,
I have need of them”
Guiteau:
“I unite myself with the Deity”

          September 8, 1881
 
Garfield:
Today it was read to me
“what the world has done
since we have been gone”
I want to get back to the world
Guiteau:
Today I turn forty years of age,
a decade younger than the President
“For twenty years
I have had an idea
that I should be President”
“I shall be nominated and elected
as Lincoln and Garfield were—
                                               that is,
by the act of God”
                             And
this will happen before I reach Garfield’s age

          September 9, 1881

Garfield:

Someone showed me this:

 

CHARTS

Showing in detail the

 

Pulse, Temperature & Respiration

 

-OF-

 

THE PRESIDENT

 

Morning, Noon, and Evening

 

From July 3rd to Sept. 8th

 

with space left blank to continue the lines from day to day

 

___________________

 

Compiled and Prepared from the

 

OFFICIAL BULLETINS

 

I hope the blank spaces will be filled in

until I have recovered

Guiteau:

 

When I am released

I plan to auction off

the suit I was wearing on July 2,

as well as other personal items

that should command a high price

because of their historical interest