poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


John Clagett Proctor



Oh, what a road to Walter Reed!
A rocky road is it indeed!
The ditches in the thoroughfare
Make angels weep and preachers swear.

The wounded in the ambulance
Imagine they are still in France
As over hump and bump they go
To where they hardly ever know.

A ride upon a camel's back
Is pleasant to the reel and rack
Endured as your auto hits
The gulleys and the open pits.

And should you take a trolley car
You'll find it worse, indeed, by far,
For crooked track and flattened wheel
May make you lose your latest meal.

Of all the streets of Washington
This one will surely take the bun;
It is the most unusual street
That you, perhaps, in life will meet.

They call it Georgia Avenue—
But what on earth did Georgia do
To merit such a big disgrace?
(A slap, it seems, right in the face.)

For Georgia is a good old State
Where everything is up to date,
And if I represented it
I'd start right in and do my bit.

I'd tack right to the District bill
An item which they could not kill:
I'd make the delegation aid
And soon I'd have asphaltum laid.


John Clagget Proctor (1867-1956) lived his entire life in Washington, DC. He earned a law degree from the National University Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1894. He was active in several DC organizations, including the Masons, the Society of Natives, the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Columbia Historical Society, and the DC Federation of Citizen's Associations. He married Annie Maud Crown in 1887 and had two children, and wrote occasional articles for The Sunday Star newspaper from 1928 until the early 1950s, which were collected in the 1949 volume Proctor's Washington and Environs. In 1950, he self-published his volume of collected poems, Proctor's Poems.

This poem was first published in a periodical, The Come-Back, on June 18, 1919. Walter Reed General Hospital opened in 1909 with 80 beds, and expanded in WWI to 2,500 beds. The facility is scheduled to close in September 2011. The lower section of Georgia Avenue was first paved in 1916, just three years before this poem was written, but upper Georgia Avenue remained unpaved until after the war.


Published in Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 2010.