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poetry The Father of Our Country

With tongue in cheek, Kim Roberts explores the patriarchal origins of our Thanksgiving holiday.

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The Father of Our Country

By Kim Roberts

You can see four sets of George Washington’s dentures
at the National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore.
They’re in a special room by themselves,

and they are not made of wood,
but of hippopotamus ivory and gold springs.
His grimace looks so parental.

For those of us without a father,
George is happy to stand in.

Unable to have children of his own

now he’s adopted the whole country—
in loco parentis. He’s the wholesome general
whose troops lost their shoes at Valley Forge.

Instead of children, he bred
hunting dogs. He gave his hounds
such toothy names: Tartar and Sweet Lips.

I want Thanksgiving Dinner with George. I want
stringy wild turkey, mashed yams with coconut,
and his favorite: cream of peanut soup.

“The Father of Our Country” was originally published in The Southern Review, 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Kim Roberts is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). She is the editor of a forthcoming anthology O Say Can You See: The Early Poets of Washington, D.C. (University of Virginia Press, April 2021). Poems of hers have been featured in the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas Project, on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Project, and on podcasts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her website: