USS Ronald Reagan by Jehanne Dubrow


When my husband says the aircraft carrier
he’s headed to is named for Ronald Reagan,
that actor from our childhood TV screens,
matinee idol who called America
a kindly, greening land, and Washington
a shining city on a hill, I say

is everything Ronald Reagan? To say
it’s just a ship, an aircraft carrier,
is to ignore that everywhere in Washington
he is—the airport now is Ronald Reagan,
the metro stop. Throughout America
are elementary schools and mega-screens

in stadiums named him. Sometimes the screens
flicker a final score.  Sometimes they say,
we will not be deterred. America,
they say, achieves its destiny. The carrier
navigates waters of forgetfulness, like Reagan
himself, I think. Those years in Washington,

did he imagine himself as Washington
when, reading off the teleprompter screens,
he spoke of duty, freedom, strength? Reagan,
the great communicator, who liked to say
that facts are stupid things. On the aircraft carrier,
they eat jellybeans that taste like America,

the pucker of sour apple, America
of plastic licorice. In Washington,
I think of my husband sent to the carrier,
how soon he will be staring at those screens
which stutter white with information. He’ll say
all is quiet on the Ronald Reagan—

and how I’ll want to believe, although Reagan
could never persuade me that America
was steering toward a flat horizon. Say
there’s sin and evil in the world and Washington.
Let our banner proclaim on all the screens
a victory. The aircraft carrier,

I say, is in deep ocean, Ronald Reagan
an aircraft carrier, a man, an America.
And Washington, a million static screens.



Read TJ Jarrett’s interview with Jehanne Dubrow in Women in Form



Jehanne Dubrow is the author of four poetry collections, including most recently Red Army Red and Stateside. In 2015, University of New Mexico Press will publish her fifth book of poems, The Arranged Marriage. Her work has appeared in Southern Review, The New England Review, The Hudson Review, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. She is the Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and an Associate Professor of creative writing at Washington College, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.