Dead in DC

This was first performed as an improv at GotPoetry Live, @ Reflections Café, Providence, RI. Rewrote it this morning, based on what I remember and what came to me while writing this morning.

The dead are marching on Washington tonight
flooding the streets around the Capitol,
filling up Lafayette Square and
overwhelming the nuclear protesters,
surrounding the White House.

The dead are marching on Washington tonight:
there’s an old woman from the 1906 San Francisco quake,
and she’s left calcite stars on every road from
Nevada to Maryland.
She’s been planning this for years.

And there’s a couple of bone-suits crawling
from the Harlem ghetto
buried in mismatched kerchiefs
and matching bullet holes
waltzing the danse macabre with an Irish cop
and I dare you to tell me which
skeleton is which.

Yes, the drowned and the Natives are here,
buried miners and forgotten outlaws,
and the victims of our foreign wars
crowd around the embassies
up Massachusetts Avenue,
all the way to the National Cathedral,
and all the way past the Lincoln Memorial
across Memorial Bridge through the National Cemetery.
They’ve filled up the parking lots of the Pentagon,
laughing and chanting and wanting justice.

Justice — or vengeance.
They’ve got their placards out,
they’re screaming in the streets.

There’s no space for them on the National Mall,
they’re packed so tightly,
so they press down the escalators into the Metro,
and up the stairs of the Smithsonian,
jostling the tourists and the bureaucrats,
haranguing senators and congressmen.
Some are reclaiming their shoes
from the exhibit over on Wallenberg Plaza

In the middle of them all
in top hat and fancy black shirt
Bawon Samedi is grinning skeleton teeth
at school groups and old ladies
raising his machete high;
And he’s waltzing with the only man who lived and died and lived again
but who spent all Saturday in the grave
And they march in lockstep tonight,
with all the Founding Fathers behind them
Who better to march together
when the dead bring their complaints to Washington?

And they’ve got their local issues:
the coffins are floating still in New Orleans,
the graveyards are forgotten in Montana,
the Manhattan dead cannot see the sky.

Where all their fingers pointed to this one city once,
now they point a dozen different ways,
a hundred, a million,
at every thing and every one

and we the living, surrounded by
their turmoil and their anger,
hurry on our business and
do not notice their protest
at all.

Update @ 8:30a: I added a brief edit, as I remembered one piece I left out — Bawon Samedi and the Founding Fathers.
Update @ 11:20a: changed ‘hare’ to ‘here’, changed as commented below.

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    • The ‘w’ there is to remind me to perform it with the creole/voudon pronunciation. Baron Samedi/ baron Saturday is a spirit associated with the dead and death.

  1. Yes, it was another improv. And of course, it’s NOT the same piece I created when I improv’ed it, because I’ve added things and likely left others out. But yes, it’s an imperfect record of another improv.

    And thank you… I’m glad you like it.

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