Ladies First | Kat Meads
Kat Meads is the author of Quizzing the Dead (Pudding House) and other books and chapbooks of poetry and prose, including For You, Madam Lenin, a novel. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains and teaches in Oklahoma City University’s low-residency MFA program.
Abigail Powers Fillmore
“I think if I were a lady, and my husband should become president,
I should run away.”
—From a letter to the First Lady from her nephew
Worthy advice. But how to jog on a bum ankle? A sudden dip
In a Buffalo sidewalk, her determination to march on: bad idea,
Terrific excuse. Surely a First Lady on crutches can skip
The pomp and ceremony, the tedium, the banter, the galleria
Of primp and baubles, “the great vanity of costume, the effort to rival”
Each the next? Her luxuries of choice: sudsy bath, stirring book,
Dickens, Irving, Thackeray, the company of her strikingly beautiful
Spouse, “unlettered” when they met. To teach Millard Fillmore took
Time, patience, sacrifice—for the lovely aspired to office, the highest
In the land. Thereafter her image on postcards, her reading
Habitat disturbed, a gaggle of favor seekers fouling her nest.
Veto the Fugitive Slave Law or lose the nomination. A wifely warning,
Yes, though not a plea. None happier than she at Pierce’s swearing-in,
Buffeted by icy snow and chilling wind. Exposure, pneumonia, the end.