Poetry Friday: On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial – Linda Pastan

Poetry Friday is hosted by Heidi Mordhorst of My Juicy Little Universe


On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial – Linda Pastan

We invent our gods
the way the Greeks did,
in our own image—but magnified.
Athena, the very mother of wisdom,
squabbled with Poseidon
like any human sibling
until their furious tempers
made the sea writhe.
Zeus wore a crown
of lightning bolts one minute,
a cloak of feathers the next,
as driven by earthly lust
he prepared to swoop
down on Leda.
Despite their power,
frailty ran through them
like the darker veins
in the marble of these temples
we call monuments.
Looking at Jefferson now,
I think of the language
he left for us to live by.
I think of the slave
in the kitchen downstairs.
I love this poem and think of it often as I’m exploring history with my sixth graders, who are endlessly fascinated by questions and wonderings such as “but what was he really like?” or “how did they really feel about this?”  These questions, of course, are exactly what make teaching history and learning about history so interesting…and so much fun.

7 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial – Linda Pastan

  1. Wonderful poem — fascinating and always interesting to look at these larger than life figures as flawed human beings. With Jefferson, especially, so difficult to fully understand how he reconciled what he stood for with how he lived. And I do like how Maira presented a balanced portrait of him in her book.

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