unveiling

Rumors of War
On a Wednesday night
in our New South,
a black man

astride a horse
sees the cold, almost-
ripe moon for the first time.

heavy drapes hang
on the bronze bolts of his hair
for forty full minutes 

in the sinking light,
tugged free at last by an unnamed fireman
as a marching band plays. 

so like the old Capital: all pomp and letting go
by degrees. it’s how the papers will spin it, anyway,
ghosts murmuring softly into the rain

while the crowd cheers
and the politicos pat themselves
under their wide umbrella-grins.

the generals down the block
are not moved. maple leaves
blush red in the late fall air.

next night, just across the river,
music spills for the first time
in a white-bricked café, 

full-ish house, applause.
a pink-haired kid with a violin has struck
up Ashokan Farewell, another song 

on a playlist of our beautiful dead.
like most people, we can’t see the monuments
from here, nor—most days—the ghosts.

it’s as if nothing has changed,
nothing significant at all, except
the moon, now full, 

looking down
on a slightly different city.

Uncoded

the river swells in her bed, an ocean
trapped in an earthy body. the rains

haven’t stopped all summer; violence
ripples in her skin. on the right shoulder

of the bridge, an ambulance
idles flashing. 20 feet ahead, the water

rescue team is parked, bright red against
gray concrete. men

lean into the rail, searching,
their whole minds in their eyes,

scanning movement for movement,
pushing the churn of fear

down behind only: see.
there is a faith in this, whatever

they believe at home on a Sunday.
a blind looking, in hope.

one gets a message
on the radio at his hip.

they climb back in their trucks.
there is nothing

but current below, wild ever-dance
of waters downstream. a sadness

in the way the ambulance pulls
away, its lights extinguished.

 

Off Texas Avenue, the parking lot is littered with memories

From the skinny brown arcs
of ballerinas rooted
in a coltish breeze,
the first brittle leaves drift
limply to still-summer ground,
yellow earthbound stars
five-pointed like fingers
whose reach is destined to be crushed.
there is a silence
that holds underneath the constant hum
of voices, engines, bike treads;
the same we came here seeking
so many years ago. tiny clam shells
scattered among gravel tell how far
the sea has come, calling
to mind a beach road
i saw once, where a black man
in an old truck rode north
with one arm out the window,
the bed full of rusted chains,
whole oil drums full. like the shadow
of the hawk gliding hugely over the rooftops
that bank the park, i want it
to mean something, to be more
than soundless commentary:
a blessing. a washing clean.