James Allen Hall
National Portrait Gallery
March 12, 2016
Nancy Reagan hangs in her red dress
across from the crowded washrooms,
ensuring no hanky-panky goes down red
in the men’s room, not on her watch,
no nancyboys allowed, though I like to
think of her whiling away in “that shade
of scarlet forever known as Reagan red,”
the smell of unflushed waste enveloping her.
Leaving the gallery, a woman whose life knows
each brick alleyway in D.C. follows me down
the steps, closes in on me at the crosswalk,
takes a sudden swing, misses me. Her eyes
are bloodshot; when I confront her, she hides
one hand behind her, holds the other palm-out:
No offense. This is what living with the Reagans
is like. That red legacy—would that it could die
in me. I’m living with her coursing through
my veins, the reaginic culture of her
nearly undetectable, Reagan+, her breath
hot on the back of my bared neck.
James Allen Hall is the author of Now You’re the Enemy (University of Arkansas Press, 2008), which won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Recent poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Arts and Letters, and Agni. He teaches creative writing and literature at Washington College in Maryland.
This poem is not previously published.