District of Columbia

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Washington’s Monument, February, 1885

Ah, not this marble, dead and cold:
Far from its base and shaft expanding—the round zones circling, comprehending,
Thou, Washington, art all the world’s, the continents’ entire—not yours alone, America,
Europe’s as well, in every part, castle of lord or laborer’s cot,
Or frozen North, or sultry South—the African’s—the Arab’s in his tent,
Old Asia’s there with venerable smile, seated amid her ruins;
(Greets the antique the hero new? ’tis but the same—the heir legitimate, continued ever,
The indomitable heart and arm—proofs of the never-broken line,
Courage, alertness, patience, faith, the same—e’en in defeat defeated not, the same:)
Wherever sails a ship, or house is built on land, or day or night,
Through teeming cities’ streets, indoors or out, factories or farms,
Now, or to come, or past—where patriot wills existed or exist,
Wherever Freedom, pois’d by Toleration, sway’d by Law,
Stands or is rising thy true monument.

The White House

Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.

Dangerous for Girls

It was the summer of Chandra Levy, disappearing
       from Washington D.C., her lover a Congressman, evasive
              and blow-dried from Modesto, the TV wondering

in every room in America to an image of her tight jeans and piles
       of curls frozen in a studio pose. It was the summer the only 
              woman known as a serial killer, a ten-dollar whore trolling

the plains of central Florida, said she knew she would
       kill again, murder filled her dreams
              and if she walked in the world, it would crack

her open with its awful wings. It was the summer that in Texas, another
       young woman killed her five children, left with too many
              little boys, always pregnant. One Thanksgiving, she tried

to slash her own throat. That summer the Congressman
       lied again about the nature of his relations, or,
              as he said, he couldn't remember if they had sex that last

night he saw her, but there were many anonymous girls that summer,
       there always are, who lower their necks to the stone
              and pray, not to God but to the Virgin, herself once

a young girl, chosen in her room by an archangel.
       Instead of praying, that summer I watched television, reruns of
              a UFO series featuring a melancholic woman detective

who had gotten cancer and was made sterile by aliens. I watched
       infomercials: exercise machines, pasta makers,
              and a product called Nails Again With Henna,

ladies, make your nails steely strong, naturally,
       and then the photograph of Chandra Levy
              would appear again, below a bright red number,

such as 81, to indicate the days she was missing.
       Her mother said, please understand how we're feeling
              when told that the police don't believe she will be found alive,

though they searched the parks and forests
       of the Capitol for the remains and I remembered
              being caught in Tennessee, my tent filled with wind

lifting around me, tornado honey, said the operator when I called
       in fear. The highway barren, I drove to a truck stop where
              maybe a hundred trucks hummed in pale, even rows

like eggs in a carton. Truckers paced in the dining room,
       fatigue in their beards, in their bottomless
              cups of coffee. The store sold handcuffs, dirty

magazines, t-shirts that read, Ass, gas or grass.
       Nobody rides for free, and a bulletin board bore a 
              public notice: Jane Doe, found in a refrigerator box

outside Johnson, TN, her slight measurements and weight.
       The photographs were of her face, not peaceful in death,
              and of her tattoos Born to Run, and J.T. caught in

scrollworks of roses. One winter in Harvard Square, I wandered 
       drunk, my arms full of still warm, stolen laundry, and
              a man said come to my studio and of course I went—

for some girls, our bodies are not immortal so much as
       expendable, we have punished them or wearied
              from dragging them around for so long and so we go

wearing the brilliant plumage of the possibly freed
       by death. Quick on the icy sidewalks, I felt thin and
              fleet, and the night made me feel unique in the eyes

of the stranger. He told me he made sculptures
       of figure skaters, not of the women's bodies,
              but of the air that whipped around them,

a study of negative space,
       which he said was the where-we-were-not
              that made us. Dizzy from beer,

I thought why not step into
       that space? He locked the door behind me.