The older couples had voted just after dawn,
And by noon the exit polls are underway.
Some talking head opines in San Jose.
My poster is mute and silent on the lawn.
"As the wind blows, so the flag will wave,"
Says a cynic who is nevertheless waiting in line.
The woman in front of him has been assigned
The nearest booth where she plans, again, to save
The Republic from itself — the drama played out
In this miniature theater, with its curtain and cast.
Today will be a performance of the past,
Its fortunes and flaws, its certainty and doubt.
The pencil has no eraser. She makes her choice,
Determined but still uncertain how it will end,
As the Founders were as well who thought to lend
So much importance to each small impassioned voice.
But will the cynic’s vote now cancel hers?
She stays behind to watch him enter the booth.
(In our democracy, we think "the truth"
Is what everyone, regardless, secretly prefers.)
She won’t know anything but threats and trends
Until, again in the dark, but midnight’s now,
She can sense what hope the numbers will allow,
And what you get when you smear or overspend.
She will sit and stare at charts on CNN.
(But aren’t we redeemed by what they cannot show?
The struggle in each restless heart to know
The terms on which the nation’s fate depends.)
She will think how, at last, millions have spoken as one,
That freedom requires an open mind and hand,
And the strength to be forgiven and understand,
And that tomorrow morning it has all just begun.
J. D. McClatchy (born 1945)