If you’re the meditative type, maybe you’ll meander
down where the trails wind around the old memorial
with the stern-faced soldiers pushing the flag
into the ground across the way
from the endless smooth, white headstones
stretching in such straight ranks for what seems
miles behind the stone walls.
You’ll listen to the steady beat
of the every-night runners and the low voices
of the suspicious mothers with their grossly indulgent sons
and the sharp gossip of the Chinese women sitting
on the park bench. At this time of day there’s a place
where all the photographers with their fancy cameras
and their big tripods try to get the perfect shot
of the Lincoln and the Monument and the Capitol all nestled
neatly together. You didn’t realize before you came here
that it really does look like that,
like they’re all sitting one
right next to the other.
And there’s the buzz of the cicadas and the tour buses
and laughing children
climbing on the lions guarding the Carillion,
the bell tower that’s ringing out
the sounds of another day ended.
You could get lost in the thick, humming trees
and the moist, dusky air and almost forget
the million-some going on about their lives around you,
because the roots go deep here, deep into the Virginia soil
upon which such proud men have trod. But the fingernail moon
hangs in the blue-gray sky and the air smells
like forest and growing things
and those dark green “Don John’s” outhouses
meant for the melting summer tourists sitting in piles
and watching the Marine salute.
You pass the man who sits on the same bench every night
with his white trash bags talking to nobody or anybody
or maybe just the fireflies who drip languid green light
over the long grass
like molasses.