John Corrigan

I imagine you, Mr. Corrigan,

on foot from town to town,

walking, always moving, in the open air,

passing frequently through Montrose

but never setting your roots down;

self-professed medicine man, herb doctor,

with gray beard and broad brimmed hat,

maybe a satchel of ginseng at your side,

Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in a pocket,

on Public Avenue in front of the court house;

fluent talker, always ready to debate passersby

about the merits of the legislature, circulating cards,

asking friends to support you, Dr. Corr,

for the office of President of the United States.

Why was it that you avoided railway trains?

Were the tracks too uniform? the cars too confining?

Dead at seventy-five, the newspapers called you

slightly unbalanced, but a clean and unobtrusive man. 

And almost as an apology for your very existence, they wrote,

a man who came and went without doing anyone harm.

But you smile, Dr. Corr, because often times

the most unassuming words make the finest epitaphs.

—from my collection of poems about Montrose, Pennsylvania, Public Avenue, based on his obituary, published in the Montrose Democrat on February 20, 1908

This was one of the first poems to come to life in my recent collection of poems about Montrose, Public Avenue, and it’s always been close to me, in part because I worked in a reference to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which has grown close to me much like the history of Montrose and Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. I remember reading the obituary and looking at the few, rare pictures of Corrigan, and the poem just seem to “effuse” from me as Whitman would often say about his poetry.

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