Friday, April 17, 2009

"A Senator Concedes" by Mike Finley

Apropos of yesterday's post, a poem by Mike Finley:


Every day a man rises and sets off to undo it,
some failure he barely remembers,

a phantom moment hiding in time.

These are the years he is in his prime,

his wisdom and courage fixed in the grin

he landscapes his life with:

the disappointment he feels in the world
he holds at arm's length, the odd fascination

for his mother's first name.

Somehow we never quite let it sink in

that the contests that mattered
have long since been over.

Today I want to walk home, stumbling,
my fists at my eyes,
sobbing all the way.


The author explains: "Yes, I wrote it in 1974. For several years it had a different title, 'A Politician in Retirement.' It was really about me, not a politician, but I felt naked having it that way, like I was foisting anguish on the reader, and so came up with the character. But this was in 1974."

This is the most haunting line of the poem, regardless of context, perhaps especially since it was written so long ago:

Somehow we never quite let it sink in/ that the contests that mattered/ have long since been over.

(I'm also curious about the poet's mother's first name.) Mike tells me that he has been "grandfathered in by the state poetry commission to write free verse in perpetuity without having to purchase the $8 annual license." He lives in St. Paul, where he is a writer for hire.

Norm came later, and he has yet to concede, despite increasing frustration on the part of voters. (When I first saw the poem's title on facebook I got excited and clicked over to CNN, only to learn that there's still more wrangling ahead.) "We will never know who won," says Norm.

Finley's facebook post also included this high school photo of Coleman, from that era when he was a young man speaking against the Vietnam war. One of the features of this contest has been a retrieval of images of the candidates when young: there's even a popular video of Al Franken prancing around as Mick Jagger, from the Franken and Davis years on Saturday Night Live. With Norm, it's the hair and that serious expression. (One of these two guys has a sense of humor; the other – not so much.)

Coleman has a history of cliff-hangers and close elections. This is from Wikipedia:

In April 2003, Coleman told a Capitol Hill reporter that he was a "99% improvement" over [Paul] Wellstone because he had a better working relationship with the White House. Many supporters of Wellstone were offended and felt that this was deeply insulting, and at least one member of Congress urged Coleman to apologize.[26] In 2004 Coleman campaigned for the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), but was narrowly defeated for the post by North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole in a 28-27 vote.

Want more about Norm? There's even a weasel-meter website.

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