I was born the summer of his disgrace.
That’s always been my claim. And it’s a trait
I despise in other people: hitching the intensely personal
to the historical, making Watergate a lame pun for
passage and delivery. But my mother
insists on scandal. An unmarried mother, middle-aged—
she swears her pregnancy didn’t show, even
that morning she locked herself in the toilet
and told her own mother to call an ambulance.
The phones rang off the hook that day—everyone in the family.
If I wanted to carry this further, I could point out
my mother, like Nixon, could’ve resigned.
A childless cousin wanted to raise me, a maternal
version of a vice-president. But my mother,
a child of Roosevelt, kept me: four terms of depression
and world war. Like all children, I demanded a
recount, a new election: request denied.
Hostage faces bubbled on the television screen.
When she told me who my father was, I wanted
the mystery back—the speculation traded like
missiles between the family gossips, not a Woodward
or Bernstein among them, Deepthroat a man
on the street they couldn’t identify and who
never spoke to them.

Michael Tyrell’s poems have appeared in many magazines, including Agni, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and The Yale Review. With Julia Spicher Kasdorf, he edited the anthology Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn.