Little bastards of vine. Little demons by the pint. Red eggs that never hatch, just collapse and rot. When my mom told me to gather their grubby bodies into my skirt, I'd cry. You and your father, she'd chide— the way, each time I kicked and wailed against sailing, my dad shook his head, said You and your mother. Now, a city girl, I ease one loose from its siblings, from its clear plastic coffin, place it on my tongue. Just to try. The smooth surface resists, resists, and erupts in my mouth: seeds, juice, acid, blood of a perfect household. The way, when I finally went sailing, my stomach was rocked from inside out. Little boat, big sea. Handful of skinned sunsets.
Marion “Shepilov” Barry, Jr. (1936-2014)
Marionberry: jams of Washington
state. I thought they were mocking this city.
Take a mayor and boil his sugar down—
spoon-spreadable, sweet. We take presidents
and run them in a game’s fourth-inning stretch.
We take Bullets and turn them to Sea Dogs.
Do you remember that ballot? Sea Dogs
Dragons Stallions Express. The Washington
Wizards was no more or less of a stretch.
We wave gavels like wands in this city.
We’re the small town in which a president
can plant some roses. Each time I sit down
to try and say goodbye, all I write down
is Dear City. My neighbor walks his dogs
past a monument to a president’s
terrier, forever bronzed. Washington
has no J Street, no Z, yet the city
maps attend to fifty states and a stretch
of five blocks NE Metro track—a stretch
named Puerto Rico Avenue. Bow down
to the unmapped names: Chocolate City,
Simple City. Ben serves up chili dogs
through a riot, and Walter Washington
is the first and last time a president
picks our mayor. The truth is, presidents
come and go, four or eight years at a stretch.
Barry said, I’m yours for life, Washington;
Emperor Marion, who could get down
with Chuck Brown. Later, reporters will dog
his Bitch set me up, his graft. Dear City,
will you let me claim you as my city?
To love you is to defy precedent.
Your quadrants hustle like a pack of dogs
around the hydrant Capitol. They stretch
and paw, they yap and will not settle down.
Traffic: the berry to Washington’s jam.
For city miles, Barry’s motorcade stretched.
We laid him among vice presidents, down
where the dogs seek congress in Washington.