Sunday, April 5, 2009


Today's Writer's Digest prompt: Write about a landmark. This seems like a prompt that will lead to a lot of really lousy poems. It's so hard to do this without touching on Big Topics, possibly in a hamhanded way.

I'm sure I haven't dodged that criticism, but I tried to anticipate it with some touches of the unexpected.

This is not autobiography. That said, we did have a war memorial in Takoma Park (though not in Spring Park), and I was once skinny enough to slip through the gaps in it. And I did, and do, care deeply about the roots of trees. And I guess it's fair to say I've got some conflicted feelings about war. But "tomboy"? Yeah, not me.

War Monument, Spring Park

I played there when I was nine,
slipped my skinny tomboy self
between the four pillars. Three openings,
like doors on “Let’s Make a Deal.”
What would be back there? The stuff
not worth showing off: poky shrubs,
chewed-up walnut shells, ants
and potato beetles. Out front,
a white apron of stone, making sure
we knew the city called this place special.
Flanking, left and right: tall trees.
I clutched the bark as I walked
root to root, slowing at the pale stone.
Nineteen steps of reverence before
nature was allowed to wave
its branches again. I believed
the dead were down there, you see:
four special heroes, joined by war.
When I stepped, then, onto the next
knuckle of wood, I imagined its finger
grew down into the purple heart
of one of those lost men. Sometimes
I’d hop a little, give him a tickle.

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