Remembering Lincoln at the Southern Pines Library

I lean on the congressional desk of Lincoln
at the Southern Pines Library
and ask this Congress of Books: Quo Vadis?

My hands rough with Carolina brick making
explore the flat shape, polished plane
of legislative reason so lost on the mind

torn by the variety of wars from Vietnam to Watergate
that separates the country into various camps.
Down the road the Army still makes soldiers

from sand and pine at Fort Bragg –
named for Lincoln’s nemesis Braxton Bragg
whose ghost plays out a failed strategy and tragedy.

Now in a classroom on Missionary Ridge,
I see that congressional desk flash under the hand of a student
whose rhythm and sentence structure just might

inaugurate that new birth of freedom
so lost on the Republic of greed, so lost
to those first books: the soggy copy of The Life of Washington,

Aesop’s Fables, Robinson Crusoe, Hamlet,
that carried the man from the Kentucky log cabin,
past Springfield, trial law, and presidential debate

to that broken country, a cemetery at Gettysburg
where the incarnation of blood forms the ink
to conceive the idea of Liberty again.

Kemmer Anderson walks his dog along the Trail of Tears in Chattanooga, Tennessee and has walked the streets of East Jerusalem in 1971, '83, 98, and 2015. Read other articles by Kemmer.