the museum of americana

a literary review

Burying My Dog Behind the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library—Poetry by Chase Dimock

In the hills of my hometown,
I have witnessed the burials
of two housecats
a golden retriever
and the 40th President
of the United States of America.

Beau stayed alive long enough
for me to arrive home from college.
Glaucoma fogged his vision
horseflies lapped at his sores,
his tail too limp to swat them away.

The rock I placed above his grave
is missing, probably blown down
the dusty cliff by the Santa Ana winds.
I replaced it with a half drunk PBR
the last time I hiked up the hill.
Across the ravine, Reagan’s library
is visible from a golf course
and a trailer park.

When Reagan died, an old man
spent two weeks on the freeway overpass
holding up an autographed picture
burning jelly bean shaped carcinoma
into his bald head, with not so much
as a puffy VFW Post hat to shield the sun.

He remembers the colonial eighties,
the white flight from LA that formed Simi Valley
that built a community of upper middle class
upper middle managers.

Makeshift memorials in Reagan’s honor
marked the significant street corners
Red White and Blue dyed 7-11 carnations
and jet ink home printed Reagan photos
replaced the weathered remnants
on telephone poles. Tattered posters of lost pets,
campaign posters, frayed yellow support our troops
ribbons and the wax of a candlelight vigil
where Joey was hit on his bike.

The memorials popped up everywhere
that seemed vaguely patriotic:
in front of the post office, city hall,
the police station and beneath the 50 feet
of rippling stars and stripes waving
in parking lot of the Chevrolet dealership.

There was a collective sense of loss
though not everyone was quite sure
what they were missing.

I could see my house
from the helicopter footage
the parade of Limousines
and hearses filled with dignitaries
as Secret Service agents
guarded a corpse with their lives.

Larry King stared silently
at me from the TV waiting
for some kind of grieving
I didn’t know how to muster
as I stroked a cat in my lap
who did not know it too,
in four months, would join
the president and Beau
in the hills.
 
 
~~~

Chase Dimock is an English Professor from Los Angeles and he serves as the Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be Magazine. His poetry has been published in Waccamaw, Hot Metal Bridge, Faultline, Saw Palm, New Mexico Review, and San Pedro River Review among others. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois and his literary scholarship and criticism have appeared in College Literature, Western American Literature, Modern American Poetry, The Lambda Literary Review, and several edited anthologies.