Lines on the Resignation of Director Petraeus

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Being a meditation on recent goings-on in Washington and Tampa, with acknowledgements to E. E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, Ford Madox Ford, and the King James Bible

So Farewell – for now –
David Howells Petraeus
General, US Army (retired), late Director of the CIA,
Son of Sixtus, sea captain who commanded a Liberty ship for FDR.

I always thought
Your name sounded Latin
But it turns out your Daddy was Dutch,
From Friesland
Where the people have fair hair and ruddy cheeks,
Which gave you one of your many names,

You took him at his word
When he said “Results, boy, results!’
That took you from West Point to the ends of the earth
From the Hudson river to the hotbeds of terrorism
Thence to the hotbeds of intrigue
With a PhD and medals in between.

Whenever we saw you on TV
All those badges seemed to weigh you down
Amongst others, they gave you
The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
And the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Both created by executive order of George W. Bush,
the misunderestimated president.

In Mosul in Iraq
They called you ‘King David’
When you became a four-star general
They started calling you ‘P4′
But to your friends
I guess you must always have been
Just plain Dave

When you came back from the wars
Some saw you as presidential timber,
called on the ghosts of Grant, Marshall, Eisenhower
and the inconsolable Pershing (‘Black Jack’)
Who lost his wife and daughters in a fire
But became six-star General of the Armies of the United States

O General! My General!
The parades are over now
Maybe staying fit to fight the phantoms wore you down
Maybe you took off the rear-view mirror once too often
Maybe you needed to share more than you needed to know
Maybe you mixed too much intelligence
Maybe it was the eighty percent solution
Who knows (the rules for living)?

King David saw another man’s wife in the bath
And had to have her,
So the good book says.
‘All feminine claws are sheathed in velvet
But they can still hurt a good deal
if they touch you on the sore places of the defects of your qualities’

She was a member of his tribe
They spoke a common language
Yours is Milspeak:
SOP and ROE, IED and HME,
– and ABT:
Please, now,
Anywhere But Tampa.

You sing the body athletic
You run and run and run and run
Your body, we learn in your rule number ten,
is your ultimate weapons system
But Whitman, he sang the body electric
The embrace of love and resistance
No spring fighting season for him
Or winter or summer or fall

They say when you went to the CIA
You were depressed, you were vulnerable.
Senator Feinstein said
Transitioning is a tremendous adjustment
all of a sudden
You had no entourage, no driver,
and had to wash the dishes. You were now
just a man in a blue suit.

General, they’ll say at Langley,
We hardly knew you.
So long, Dave!


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