It is a tradition in this family, to gather after lunch on the 4th
under a pavilion built on the flat roof of an old boathouse.
There, five generations of the owners of an Adirondack camp
pass a copy of the Declaration from person to person around a table,
taking turns reading aloud When in the course a designated passage,
it becomes necessary for one people and hand it to the next.
A 5th generation these truths to be self-evident toddles, unsteadily,
about the floor all men are created equal with her sippy cup.
Massive logs braced with tree limbs evinces a design to reduce them
under absolute Despotism hold up the roof. The history
of the present King Its overhang and the railings is a history
of repeated injuries frame the forest undulating around a lake
pocked with islands. obstructing the Laws for Naturalization
of Foreigners Wind crinkles a patch of water. A wooden Chris Craft
motors by setting the water plundered our seas, to sloshing
harder destroyed the lives of our people under the boathouse.
Across the lake, through a dip in the trees, two ridges fade
circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled into the mist.
In the foreground, the long arm of a pine entreats. A hemlock’s limbs
dangle down deaf to the voice of justice and the occupants
of this landscape these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be
Free and Independent pass the past and who we are, and how we came
to be, into the present, Jefferson’s language we mutually pledge to each other
our Lives marrying with theirs, his words inhaled into their bodies.
Then, 56 names, each signer, are tolled, one by one, around the table,
knowing that stroke of the pen could cost them their lives.
Button Gwinnett. Lyman Hall. George Walton. William Hooper. Joseph . . .
The names linger in the air. We are here.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 34 Number 10, on page 24
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