Don’t make the mistake of calling her
angel or saint. The tremendous broad crowning
Troy’s war monument grips her sword
and blows her horn for the sake of war,
not for its spoils, and so for her no poems are written.
For her, men stuff and cock their guns.
They go upstate, these men, or just away.
Those left languish here in bronze, cast
among glistening plumes of smoke at Gettysburg
or swirling dreamlessly in the iron tomb
of the foundering Monitor. Even homeboy Uncle Sam
stands frozen, soldered together in a weird
patchwork of steel. The women are another story.
A block away, the metal belly of the 22 to Albany swells
with an army of hotel domestics who have been waiting,
eternally waiting, at the Uncle Sam Bus Stop. The driver
says God bless when they board as if this
waiting were some test of faith, as if this waiting
could approximate something the living do.
The bus hisses gas into the lindens, noses past
a slatted factory that grins an emptiness so wide
it belies its wooden ribs. The bronze bitch
atop the city hasn’t turned a blind eye
to any of this. It’s just that she never
promised anyone here victory, only offered
this dull blade and the collar
of nerves a girl needs
to walk down the block
and receive the beating
someone said she deserves.
In Verse is supported by Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0, an initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. This project is made possible with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a broadcast partnership with Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.