THE EVOLVING CITY

Joshua Weiner


KENNEDY CENTER

Young boy of the Wushu
takes his turn in the demo
outdoors, tin knives trailing
bright scarves that cut clean
figures through air, the beat
of ten drums sending him gyro-
scoping, arms like chopper blades
spinning before they lift—so
even a boy younger than he
appreciates the stern concentration
gathering as he prepares
legs to kick higher than
his head snapping back
to lead the body that way in
the counter thrust. Five? Six?
A warrior-dancer tracing
nature of cobra and mongoose
in quick calligraphy of cloth.
Opposition in flight. Complements
finding space along
a single axis: Beijing
in Washington unfurling
a seam between art
and war in this bright chilly
memorial plaza running
from the Shaolin Temple
to a high brow “exchange”—
(Is that David Carradine
walking the sill in meditation
above Rock Creek Parkway?)
Thus, Grasshopper, hold in the mind
the life-size terra-cotta
warriors of First Emperor Qin,
two of eight thousand
upstairs encased in glass
ready to meet the enemy
on the eternal march to Heaven;
but it’s not Heaven, only
two levels higher than street
that the army copters
serving as V.P.-escort
angle along the river,
open doors framing the soldiers,
goggles and guns looking back
at us eye to eye, calculating
the shot between us, only
one instant in the new migration.
And our house too has its new
hero of his story, who wakes
from dream and gathers light-saber,
pirate knife, and jeweled rapier
to make the journey from mountain
peak to peaceful valley
where he lays his weapons
at the foot of our bed before
burrowing between us, first
light thin as a transparent
seam between here and there,
us and them; while
the great metal bird,
having heard the call,
touches ground behind
concrete ramparts
that nest permanently now
on the busy downtown streets
in the evitable yet already opened
next theater of operations.

 

 

Joshua Weiner is the author of The World’s Room and From the Book of Giants (both published by the University of Chicago Press). He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The Nation, The American Scholar, The Village Voice, and The Yale Review. He teaches at the University of Maryland and serves as poetry editor at Tikkun. He lives with his family in Washington DC.

Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.

 

Read more by this author:
Joshua Weiner: DC Places Issue
Joshua Weiner