Saturday, April 9, 2016

Day 9: Charles Rammelkamp on "Daughter of the Confederacy" by Clarinda Harriss

For Day 9 of 30 Days of The Five-Two, frequent contributor Charles Rammelkamp comments on fellow Baltimore poet Clarinda Harriss's "Daughter of the Confederacy". —Gerald So

As she waits for the light to change where Wyman Park drive intersects with Art Museum Drive in Charles Village, Baltimore, the narrator of “Daughter of the Confederacy” sees a man and a woman who appear to be lawyers at the statue of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, astride their horses. It's a statue full of drama: Lee and Jackson are about to part company on the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville. It's the last time they will ever meet. Jackson will be killed as a result of friendly fire while Lee will be lauded for a victory over a much larger Union army.

This statue, along with several others in Baltimore commemorating Confederate soldiers, may be removed in the aftermath of the racial massacre in Charleston, which was inspired to some extent by the Confederate war flag. The mayor established a commission to review the future of all Confederate monuments in Baltimore, of which there are several; this was also in the wake of the Freddie Gray tragedy.

The narrator assumes these lawyers are here to begin plans for taking the statue down, which may be the case, but as she watches, the two set aside their briefcases and begin to make love on the pedestal right where, as a child, the narrator lay a yellow-rose wreath at the horses’ hooves at the statue’s dedication ceremony.

So what is the crime being committed here? In her confession to "Daughter of the Confederacy," Clarinda Harriss writes, "Though I suppose fornicating at high noon on a public statue is a crime theoretically, the real crime would be to demolish a very rare and beautiful work of art in the name of political correctness."

Though a "daughter of the Confederacy," the narrator declares herself a “flaming liberal.” She does not defend the Confederacy or support what it stood for or have any romantic ideals about its so-called gentility. Her fear is for the monument itself: “I fear for these beautiful horses, Lee’s Traveller//And Jackson’s Little Sorrel.”

She’s got a point. I love that statue, too. —Charles Rammelkamp

1 comment:

Roddy 1984 said...

Wonderful. And the poet is good-looking!