Author’s Note: “This poem grows out of my fascination with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, a couple of unparalleled greatness. Franklin, a paraplegic during his long presidency, was the source of their power. People and things orbited around him; he used them as necessary. And so I heard this competitive call and response between Eleanor and the car made especially for him, both of which served his purpose.”
Franklin Roosevelt’s Hand-Controlled Car vs. Eleanor
Car: He rode in others’ cars, hand pumping his hat, smile lifting the light. But I was the one he drove. I was his wings.
Eleanor: Substitute wives sat on his lap, taking notes, chasing his smile. But I carried his name into the world. I was his legs.
C: Clutch, brake, gas: knobs built for presidential hands. No lessons needed. We soared.
E: Amelia Earhart taught me to fly. Made for it, she said. Two women pedestaled by the clouds.
C: He was reborn inside me. I stayed wholly his. We shared a living space.
E: I bore him six children in ten years. Discovered love letters in his suitcase. We never shared a bedroom again.
C: First presidential chariot to race along wooded hills and lose the Secret Service.
E: First First Lady to join a union and be spied on by the FBI.
C: From my steering column, I dispensed lit cigarettes, comforting him.
E: From my heart, I nagged and nudged: unpen Japanese Americans, let in Europe’s Jews, untie the lynchers’ knot. Consciences never comfort.
C: At the end, I waited for him. Too weak, he didn’t come.
E: At the end, I wasn’t with him. Too strong, I couldn’t stop.
C: We should have gone under together, two of us lowered down, me as his coffin.
E: Riding the train with his coffin, seeing people lined up along hundreds of miles of track, I knew I’d served his purpose.
C: Preserved behind glass where people stare and study, I am immortal.
E: Every American woman, as far as freedom takes her, carries me forward.
Douglas Collura’s work has been featured in numerous literary publications earning the poet Pushcart Prize nominations and other recognition. He is the author of a spoken CD, The Dare of the Quick World, and the book, Things I Can Fit My Whole Head Into. He was a finalist for the 2007 Paterson Poetry Prize and the 2008 First Prize Winner of the Missouri Review Audio/Video Competition in Poetry. He lives in Manhattan.
Delmarva Review is a national literary journal with strong regional roots. It publishes the best of new poetry and prose selected from thousands of submissions annually. The Review is an independent, 501(c)(3) journal, supported by contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. It is sold in paperback and digital editions at Amazon.com and other major online booksellers and specialty regional bookstores. Website: DelmarvaReview.org.