Dos Passos-savvy

I’ve been doing so much JDP legacy work lately I was inspired to write a poem about it:

Dos Passos-savvy


When I was a boy I knew books;

they showed

sharks, rays, barracudas,

saw-jawed megalodons,

Tyrannosaurus rex,

Fujita scale tornadic intensity,

cirrus, cumulocirrus, cumulonimbus clouds,

Hercules holding up the world, no tears, no help.


I knew books, and

my grandfather, John Dos Passos,

was just a famous writer gone before I was born,

just a name I couldn’t get right.


I was a boy with a life and snowballs to make,

and he was history,

old like the aboriginal stories I learned in grade school,

old like the dream time when formed rivers, lakes, and all creation.

I was a boy with a strong young heart,

tearing leaves off tulip poplar trees.


I knew books, I said,

until I wrote a book of my own.


Now, I’m Dos Passos-savvy.

Now, it’s a triumvirate of syllables,

an buy cabergoline india easy name for critics to forget,

for neoconservatives to coopt,

for liberals to cheer.

It’s still a hard name to get right.


It’s a name on the bookshelf

between Dickens and Dostoevsky,

a name on a gravestone in Westmoreland County, Virginia.


Stuck in perpetual May, Dos Passos Farm is home.

I tell of bobwhite quail wake-up calls on Saturday morning,

bald eagles jousting with ospreys and always winning,

wild turkeys fussing across green-turquoise wheat,

snapping turtles for beagles to chastise,

magnolias for children to climb,

and the field of crocuses you planted.


I know your dining room, your dumbwaiter,

your downstairs libraries, your upstairs libraries,

your painting of a red mountain village that reminds me of Spain,

and the writing desk where you chronicled America.