Lincoln, leaving Springfield, 1861,
Boards a train with a salute: but it is weak.
To correct it, he slides his hand away
From his face as if waving, as if brushing
The snows of childhood from his eyes.
The train is coming East. In the window
Lincoln watches his face. You'll grow old
The moment you arrive, he says to this face.
But you will never reach great age. The train
Speeds like the cortical pressure wave.
In the left lateral sinus, say, a bullet
In the skull. Then he will have his salute.
Then they will love him. Then eternity will slow, fall
Like snow. Then the treaty with huge silence
Which he, his face exhausted, must sign.
Added: Monday, May 19, 2014 / From Academy of American Poets "Poem-a-Day." Used with permission.
David Keplinger is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The Most Natural Thing (New Issues, 2013). He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University and is at work on a book about his great-great grandfather, a Civil War veteran falsely accused of desertion and incarcerated in Washington for nearly a year during the war.