Grant's Tomb

My husband reads from the memoir of Ulysses S. Grant:

"I used to be a pronoun but I have become a verb.

The definition of a verb: What is, what was, and what suffers."

Sitting on his front porch wrapped in a blanket, cancer closing

his throat,

he wrote passionately, racing with death, hoping this memoir

would ensure his family's continued well being afterwards.

"Each day, a horrible night. Each night, not rest, nor light"

Every day of our visit to New York City my husband walked up

to Grant's Tomb, which was always empty, especially this summer

with the Nile Virus quieting the city.

Every night it rained and every day was damp and cool, just

what the mosquitoes required.

Inside the tomb it's dark. He rests in a giant mahogany coffin.

Everything is shining black marble and behind his eyes

the many wars fought and the countless dead.

The tour guides wait for transfers somewhere more interesting.

Somewhere warm, and outside; standing in this tomb for years

they have become dreamy for the sun. Disinterestedly they watch

as we circle the statues, whispering.

There is a table with a glass top, and inside are the bottles

of morphine and cocaine he took to sleep and to wake up

with the poison stirring in his throat.

He'd always had terrible headache sickness. On the morning of

Lee's surrender,

Grant wrote that he was suffering very severely and spent the night

bathing his feet in hot water and mustard, applying mustard plasters

on his wrists and the back of his head.

During the night he received the letter of surrender

His headache persisted.

Then the officer brought Lee's agreement to conditions of surrender.

The instant he saw the contents of the note he was cured

He hastened on.

My husband goes to the tomb as soon as it opens.

There was no penicillin in the Civil War. Most of the men died

of septic wounds,

something we could survive. Soldiers lay in bloodied fields

screaming and dying.

At the end of Grant's personal memoir, to summarize his life,

he wrote just four words. "Let there be peace," he said.

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