“It Is Impossible to Defeat an Ignorant Man in an Argument”
If you figured there always had to be
an even earlier scoundrel before
the more recent miscreant we all know,
you’d be right—that’s one
of the world’s small certainties.
H.H. Cotton, cool in his boater
and California pale suit, founded
a town, funded a political party,
built La Casa Pacifica, later famous
as Nixon’s western White House.
I hope you’d read that as had built,
by the way. How money keeps you
removed from the doing, clean
in your two-toned shoes. Mostly
disappeared into history unknown.
Still, in 1935 it meant something
to stand next to William McAdoo, U.S.
Senator, impossibly cool if fully-buttoned
in his double-breasted suit and fedora,
casting shadows on de la Guerra Plaza.
The KKK’s support wasn’t enough to secure
McAdoo a presidential nomination, despite
he and Woodrow Wilson thinking it wise
to cage Black workers in the Treasury Department
so whites wouldn’t have to come too close.
I hope to erect them no statues but
be sure their names don’t fade all the same.
To think they stand where today La Casa
de la Raza sells its tortas for Fiesta, at least
as long as that nonprofit can remain afloat.
After the Edson Smith Photo Collection William McAdoo
George Yatchisin is the author of Feast Days (Flutter Press 2016) and The First Night We Thought the World Would End (Brandenburg Press 2019). He is co-editor of Rare Feathers: Poems on Birds & Art (Gunpowder Press 2015), and his poetry appears in anthologies including Reel Verse: Poems About the Movies (Everyman’s Library 2019). Also by this poet “Reasonable Use”