Caught short in a statue’s shadow of awe—I gaze at bone
and flesh frozen in stone. In dappled slants of light
beneath the Portland museum dome stands the regal
but rejected Grant. Intended for the Capitol rotunda,
he’s here like a fighting man exiled to a desk.
Returned by a committee of Congress, some say this general
was too plump, not martial enough with his sword atop
a pedestal, olive branch at its base. Sculptor Simmons
crafted a fraternal twin figure for the genuflection
of senators, a fiercer face, hand on his blade’s hilt.
We expect perfection in marble lacking in a man,
defying history, friends’ insight and the heart’s
knowledge of life just to bask in an alabaster glow,
demanding only heroism of our heroes,
pilfering the dignity of imperfection. Praying for peace,
we worship conquest over healing. Carved in a dove’s
color, this rebuffed Grant remembers his grandest victory
was grace in refusing the vanquished’s weapon.
Seeming relaxed, leaning one arm against the pillar,
the other vaguely reaches for a cigar.