Grace Cavalieri


MAPPING DC (1966-2007)

Walking out into the sun, we were coming closer
To the world of Washington DC. We were
Passengers, being carried along wearing a new identity,
Coming home to what would become home in 1966,
Passing through the locks,
..............Hauling what?
..............Only the rules of the road,
Witnessing the weather of what had burned away,
..............—That was half the time—
The other half was seeking new construction ahead.

What was there to see across the water
if our true nature was inside us?
If the inner city was within us.

It started with a sound, the sound of rats’ feet scuttling
Across the sagging buildings
At the end of Key bridge
Where water touches shore with Washington DC.

Then all was silent as chrome, as the buildings rose.

1966. Looking back across the river, nothing was
Rising higher than the dirt,
No tall buildings, either side, in the beginning,
Just the sound of water. And traffic on the bridge.

Where did the earth go?
Into Sterling Brown’s voice.

Where did the earth go?
Into the whine of the guitar of Bill Harris at the “Pigfoot “ club.

From the highpoint of the Bridge, where did the earth go but
Into the sky, into myth and legend, into
Voices asking be let out of the jar,
All the voices—Black, White, Latin, Asian,
Coming to shore, across the Potomac.

2007. This is the end of the past with its sources and methods.
Voices are creating a new city,
Voices of breath, the breathing left on the map of ourselves,
Still to be heard,
As we sailed from the wilderness into our beginnings.


Grace Cavalieri is the author of several books and chapbooks of poetry, and 21 produced plays. She’s produced “The Poet and the Poem” on public radio, now in its 30th year. Among honors, Grace holds the Allen Ginsberg Award for Poetry, A Paterson Prize for Poetry, the Pen- Syndicated Fiction Award, the Bordighera Poetry Award, the Folger’s inaugural “Columbia Award” and CPB’s Silver Medal. Her book What I Would do For Love (Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797) is the basis for her new play, “Hyena in Petticoats.” Her play "Quilting the Sun" received a key to the city of Greenville, S.C. in 2007, for fostering diversity.


Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.

Read more by this author:
Grace Cavalieri
Grace Cavalieri's Intro to Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring 2004)
Cavalieri on Roland Flint: Memorial Issue
Grace Cavalieri: Whitman Issue
Grace Cavalieri: Wartime Issue
Cavalieri on Louise Gluck: Profiles Issue

Grace Cavalieri: Split This Rock Issue
Cavalieri on Ann Darr: Forebears Issue
Cavalieri on Joseph Brodsky: US Poets Laureate Issue
Grace Cavalieri: Tenth Anniversary Issue

Grace Cavalieri on "The Poet & The Poem": Literary Organizations Issue
Grace Cavalieri: Poets in Federal Government Issue
Grace Cavalieri on Ahmos Zu-Bolton II: Poetic Ancestors Issue