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Poem: Columbus Day



Columbus Day

I like to think I become Atticus Finch
whenever my children inquire
about things they don't understand.

I don't want them to discover as teenagers
that the bad guys don't always lose
or that mommy and daddy aren't perfect.

So here I am watching the parade.
The fire department and the Boy Scouts
certainly are impressive.

Whatever it is Rotarians do,
they sure know how to smile and wave.
There's the town supervisor and his council,

The VFW, and the county's oldest resident,
following the high school marching band
blasting out "America the Beautiful."

My daughter sees him first,
perched upon an inflatable Santa Maria,
the Nina and Pinta bringing up the rear.

"He discovered America!" she declares,
and suddenly I'm struck dumb.
Not even in the car home

do I inform her it wasn't the real Columbus
who winked in her direction;
nor did he do what her teacher taught last week,

unless the lesson was on European colonialism,
unless twenty-five first-graders added
to their vocabularies words like

"genocide," "intolerance," or "smallpox."
I pull into the driveway still wrestling
with the notion of sitting her down

after dinner and revising the myth.
Instead, I send her off to bed later to dream
about the next celebration between
those bucolic pilgrims and the Indians.

—Ted Millar

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