Volume 7, Number 3, Summer 2006
DC Places Issue
Christmas Day in Washington
We stare up at the Washington Monument, locked,
but stone on stone imposing a civil reverence.
This being a day of markers, we head off,
with a little dread, past soggy Canada geese
to the granite cliff of the Vietnam Memorial,
laid low with the names of our own generation,
a Christmas tree fluttering in front
with letters to the dead: “I wish you could see
the children now, all grown up…” And so on.
I have tears, don’t you? For that war,
for the new one coming on, for us, I guess,
trying to hold in consciousness all this,
and the Korean War soldiers, too, slogging there
with their great stone parkas through snow.
Of course we all must die, but the momentum
seems so great, it’s hard to know
how to live, feeling the great buildup elsewhere,
a lot of weather out there, and here, snow in crevices,
you in your long black coat with your poor knees
climbing to see Lincoln again,
to see what he still knows about war.
He looks down on the few noisy families
like a Santa Claus, representing what we hope for
if we’re good. And there’s the reflecting pool
out front, a half-mile monument of space
trying to box up the possibilities, give them
tidily back to us again.
Fleda Brown is the author of ten books of poems, most recently No Need of Sympathy (BOA Editions, 2013) and Growing Old in Poetry (Autumn House Press 2013). She served as poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-2007 and was a professor of English at the University of Delaware from 1978 to 2007. She lives in Traverse City, Michigan.