late 13c., “a sepulchre,” from Old French monument “grave, tomb, monument,” and directly from Latin monumentum “a monument, memorial structure, statue; votive offering; tomb; memorial record,” literally “something that reminds,” from monere “to admonish, warn, advice,” from PIE *moneyo-, suffixed (causative) form of root *men- (1) “to think.” Sense of “structure or edifice to commemorate a notable person, action, or event” first attested c. 1600.

Not marble nor the gilded monuments

William Shakespeare

Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
’Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the Judgement that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

Sonnet 55

Exegi monumentum aere perennius


I have created a monument more lasting than bronze
and loftier than the royal structure of the pyramids,
that which neither devouring rain, nor the unrestrained North Wind
may be able to destroy nor the immeasurable
succession of years and the flight of time.
I shall not wholly die and a greater part of me
will evade Libitina [Goddess of Death]; continually I,
newly arisen, may be strengthened with ensuing praise so long
as the high priest climbs the Capitoline with the silent maiden.
It may be said that where the raging Aufidus roars
and where, short of water, Daunus ruled his rustic people,
powerful from a humble birth, I first brought Aeolian verse
to Italian measures. Assume the arrogance
sought for by those who have a claim to recognition,
and with the Delphian laurel,
Melpomene, willingly crown my head.

Ode 3.30



Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


The Monument

Alexander Pushkin

Exegi monumentum.
– Horace

The monument I’ve built is not in chiseled stone,
The people’s path to it will ne’er be overgrown,
Its disobedient head in bold defiance has risen
Above the Alexandian column.

No, I will not all die: my soul in the secret lyre
Will well escape decay, outliving my remains,
My fame will last while in the sublunary sphere
At least one poet remains.

Word of me will traverse the holy land of Rus,
And every living tongue in it will sing my praise:
The Slavs’ proud heir, the Finn, the still savage Tungus,
The Kalmyk, friend of prairies…

I daresay that a fact that folk will cherish long
Is that bright liberty served as my lyre’s true calling,
That I, in my cruel age, evoked kindness with song
And mercy for the fallen.

Remain obedient to God’s injunction, Muse,
Fear no hurt, crave no crown, retain your calm and cool,
Treat flattery and slander with indifference,
Argue not with the fool.

Juan Higera Creek

Robinson Jeffers

Neither your face, Higera, nor your deeds
Are known to me; and death these many years
Retains you, under grass or forest-mould.
Only a rivulet bears your name: it runs
Deep-hidden in undeciduous redwood shade
And trunks by age made holy, streaming down
A valley of the Santa Lucian hills.
There have I stopped, and though the unclouded sun
Flew high in loftiest heaven, no dapple of light
Flecked the large trunks below the leaves intense,
Nor flickered on your creek: murmuring it sought
The River of the South, which oceanward
Would sweep it down. I drank sweet water there,
And blessed your immortality. Not bronze,
Higera, nor yet marble cool the thirst;
Let bronze and marble of the rich and proud
Secure the names; your monument will last
Longer, of living water forest-pure.

On the Setting up Mr. Butler’s Monument in Westminster Abbey

Samuel Wesley

While Butler, needy wretch! Was yet alive,
No gen’rous patron would a dinner give:
See him, when starved to death and turned to dust,
Presented with a monumental bust!
The poet’s fate is here in emblem shown:
He asked for bread, and he received a stone.


At the Un-National Monument along the Canadian Border

William E. Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed—or were killed—on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

Washington’s Monument, February, 1885

Walt Whitman

Ah, not this marble, dead and cold:
Far from its base and shaft expanding—the round zones circling,

Thou, Washington, art all the world’s, the continents’ entire—
not yours alone, America,

Europe’s as well, in every part, castle of lord or laborer’s cot,
Or frozen North, or sultry South—the African’s—the Arab’s in
his tent,

Old Asia’s there with venerable smile, seated amid her ruins;
(Greets the antique the hero new? ‘tis but the same—the heir
legitimate, continued ever,

The indomitable heart and arm—proofs of the never-broken

Courage, alertness, patience, faith, the same—e’en in defeat
defeated not, the same:)

Wherever sails a ship, or house is built on land, or day or night,
Through teeming cities’ streets, indoors or out, factories or farms,
Now, or to come, or past—where patriot wills existed or exist,
Wherever Freedom, pois’d by Toleration, sway’d by Law,
Stands or is rising thy true monument.

Lincoln Monument: Washington

Langston Hughes

Let’s go see Old Abe
Sitting in the marble and the moonlight,
Sitting lonely in the marble and the moonlight,
Quiet for ten thousand centuries, old Abe.
Quiet for a million, million years.


And yet a voice forever
Against the
Timeless walls
Of time-
Old Abe.

The Statue

Ella Higginson

(written about the Lincoln Memorial)
That I might chisel a statue, line on line,
   Out of a marble’s chaste severities!
   Angular, harsh; no softened curves to please;
Set tears within the eyes to make them shine,
And furrows on the brow, deep, stern, yet fine;
   Gaunt, awkward, tall; no courtier of ease;
   The trousers bulging at the bony knees;
Long nose, large mouth . . . But ah, the light divine
Of Truth, – the light that set a people free!—
   Burning upon it in a steady flame,
   As sunset fires a white peak on the sky . . .
Ah, God! To leave it nameless and yet see
   Men looking weep and bow themselves and cry—
   ‘Enough, enough! We know thy statue’s name!’


Ancient Fragment on the Theory of Ruin Value

Michaela Coplen

I will erect no monument, engrave no marble stone,
For mountains have been whittled down to mark forgotten dead—
the earth reclaims their [ ], the stones remember in our stead;
I will erect no monument to bury years of bone.
And I will build no edifice that, ivy-overgrown,
might urge the young to follow where their ancestors once tread—
no mystifying megalith that leaves too much unsaid—
no, I will build no edifice to last when [ ].

But I will write these lines, and through my verse confide
our story here—in strains more soft and deft
than monument or edifice:
Here we lived lost, loved, and [ ]
—when all that’s left
is this.

Ready to Kill

by Carl Sandburg

TEN minutes now I have been looking at this.
I have gone by here before and wondered about it.
This is a bronze memorial of a famous general
Riding horseback with a flag and a sword and a revolver on him.
I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be hauled away to the scrap yard. 5
I put it straight to you,
After the farmer, the miner, the shop man, the factory hand, the fireman and the teamster,
Have all been remembered with bronze memorials,
Shaping them on the job of getting all of us
Something to eat and something to wear,
When they stack a few silhouettes
Against the sky
Here in the park,
And show the real huskies that are doing the work of the world, and feeding people instead of butchering them,
Then maybe I will stand here
And look easy at this general of the army holding a flag in the air,
And riding like hell on horseback
Ready to kill anybody that gets in his way,
Ready to run the red blood and slush the bowels of men all over the sweet new grass of the prairie.

(Chicago Poems, 1916)



Spike Milligan

Why is there no monument
To Porridge in our land?
It it’s good enough to eat,
It’s good enough to stand!

On a plinth in London
A statue we should see
Of Porridge made in Scotland
Signed, “Oatmeal, O.

(By a young dog of three)


Robert William Service

My virtues in Carara stone
Cut carefully you all my scan;
Beneath I lie, a fetid bone,
The marble worth more than the man.

If on my pure tomb they should grave
My vices,–how the folks would grin!
And say with sympathetic wave:
“Like us he was a man of sin.”

And somehow he consoled thereby,
Knowing they may, though Hades bent,
When finally they come to die,
Enjoy a snow-white monument.

And maybe it is just as well
When we from life and lust are riven,
That though our souls should sink to hell
Our tombs point: Destination Heaven!

The Unknown Citizen

W. H. Auden

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

To The Stone-Cutters

Robinson Jeffers

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you foredefeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain.
The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.


Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

Crazy Horse Monument

Peter Blue Cloud

Hailstones falling like sharp blue sky chips
howling winds the brown grass bends, while
buffalo paw and stamp and blow billowing steam,
and prairie wolves chorus the moon in morning.

The spotted snake of a village on the move
a silent file of horses rounding hills,
in a robe of gray, the sky chief clutches thunder
and winter seeks to find the strongest men.

   Crazy Horse rides the circle of his people’s sleep,
from Little Big Horn to Wounded Knee,
Black Hills, their shadows are his only robe
dark breast feathers of a future storm.

Those of broken bodies piled in death,
of frozen blood upon the white of snow,
yours is now the sky chant of spirit making,
pacing the rhythm of Crazy Horse’s mount.

And he would cry in anger of a single death,
and dare the guns of mounted soldiers blue,
for his was the blood and pulse of rivers,
and mountains and plains taken in sacred trust.

   Crazy Horse rides the circle of his people’s sleep,
from Little Big Horn to Wounded Knee,
Black Hills, their shadows are his only robe
dark breast feathers of a future storm.

And what would he think of the cold steel chisel,
and of dynamite blasting a mountain’s face,
what value the crumbled glories of Greece and Rome,
to a people made cold and hungry?

To capture in stone the essence of a man’s spirit,
to portray the love and respect of children and elders,
fashion instead the point of a hunting arrow sharp,
and leave to the elements the wearing-down of time.

   Crazy Horse rides the circle of his people’s sleep,
from Little Big Horn to Wounded Knee,
Black Hills, their shadows are his only robe
dark breast feathers of a future storm.


A National Monument Crosses Over

Tina Kelley

“Fuhgeddaboutit,” mother of exiles
muttered, rolling thirty-inch eyes.
Dropped her torch, hiked her skirts,
stepped over to Jersey. With her stride,
three hours to Niagara Falls, Canadian side.

Seidu Mohammed had a rougher trip. In a ten-hour
slog north from North Dakota, in snow waist-high,
frostbite took his fingers off. He feared deportation
from Minnesota to Ghana, where, because he loves
both men and women, they’d kill him. Thin gloves.

“God blessed Canada with good people,” he said,
refugee from the land of the free, land I once loved.

So it’s no wonder “Liberty Enlightening the World” —
her full name — could no longer bear the inscription
asking for homeless and poor masses.  She turned
her francophone sneer and her back to hypocrisy,
headed up Belleville Avenue, past Parsippany,

over the Poconos, across the Southern Tier,
into the embrace of the wise Justin Trudeau,
who tweets love, and “diversity is our strength,”
hashtag WelcomeToCanada, we have more Sikhs
in our cabinet than India does. We don’t do sweeps.

An empty granite pedestal in Upper New York Bay.
Since when are we the people others must escape?


Do not trust the eraser

Rosamond S. King

Do not trust the eraser. Prefer
crossed out, scribbled over monuments
to something once thought correct
. Instead: colors, transparencies
track changes, versions, iterations
. How else might you return
after discards, attempts
and mis takes, to your 
original genius


Adrienne Rich

The bones of saints are praised above their flesh,
That pale rejected garment of their lives
In which they walk despised, uncanonized.
Brooding upon the marble bones of time
Men read strange sanctity in lost events,
Hold requiem mass for murdered yesterdays,
And in the dust of actions once reviled
Find symbols traced, and freeze them into stone.


Stone Monument (石の碑)

Carol Hayes and Rina Kikuchi

There stood the large stone monument

Is this what is engraved here?
Due to unjust national policy
They became pitiful bones    they lie here
We must never again allow our nation to go to war

It was just a poem by His Majesty Emperor Showa
Whenever we ponder on those who dedicated their lives for the
cause of our nation,
Our heart aches with deep emotion

These    numberless    lives
Sacrificed for none other    than you
I become a shield for Your Majesty My Emperor
Although my blood splatters the clouds I have no regrets

By Ushikubo Hiroichi    Tokyo Medical University
My friends depart for war
I too depart
Your Majesty My Emperor we will be your shields
We will not come back alive

By Ono Masaaki    Deceased aged nineteen
At your word Your Majesty My Emperor
I will go, go to the very edge of world, even to my death

By Oomori Shigenori    Died somewhere near the Truk Islands

Sacrificing themselves to you Your Majesty
Missing their mothers with heart wrenching sorrow
I think about those lives that can never live again
Your Majesty, have you thought about
The tears that overflowed the hearts of these young men
each night before each death
Smiling for me my mother places her hand on my uniformed
I return to base saying nothing

You, who flew out from Chiran, Washio Katsumi
Looking at the many many letters sent to me by my mother
I thinking lovingly of her eyes when we parted last year

You, Mizui Toshio, who became a human torpedo five days before the

For those men who can never again return home
At the very least    instead of writing that fragment of poetry
You, Your Majesty, should have become a monk and prayed for the peace of
their souls
You should have lived in isolation    I wish you had

Build, Now, a Monument

Matthew Olzmann

No longer satisfied by the way time slips
through his life’s work, the maker
of hourglasses yearns for a change.

He elects to construct a staircase instead.
Rather than grains of sand,
he’ll manufacture one stair after another
to lament every transient second.

Look at it now! It rockets upward, almost vertical,
beginning in his backyard, puncturing
the cloud cover, and everyone speculates
where it will end. It will end
where all ambitions end: in the ether,
where the body ceases, and a story continues.

But for now, it’s a monument.
For now: a defiance, misoneism.
A bridge between
Earth and what Earth cannot touch.

What does he think as he builds?
Mostly he contemplates the work:
the sawdust, the anger, the hammer.
But sometimes he dreams of cars, highways,
of crashes and sequestered wreckage.
Old pain. He had a friend, out there.
There was a highway, a vehicle overturned.

If his friend was here today,
she’d understand this monument.
She liked the sky, country music and caterpillars.

There are four thousand muscles in a caterpillar.
It uses every one of them
to become something other than itself.
Is the body a cocoon? the man wonders.

From the top of the staircase, the life
he left below is almost unrecognizable.
Look at the beagle, yelping in the neighbor’s yard.
The rooftops of the shrinking houses. Everything
getting smaller as his view of the world

expands. The roads marked by petite yellow lines.
Graceland and Grant’s Tomb and whatever’s left
of the Parthenon. All of it is down there.
Things end. But what he can’t comprehend
is how, around those endings, everything else

National Monuments

Henry Van Dyke

Count not the cost of honour to the dead!
The tribute that a mighty nation pays
To those who loved her well in former days
Means more than gratitude for glories fled;
For every noble man that she hath bred,
Lives in the bronze and marble that we raise,
Immortalized by art’s immortal praise,
To lead our sons as he our fathers led.

These monuments of manhood strong and high
Do more than forts or battle-ships to keep
Our dear-bought liberty. They fortify
The heart of youth with valour wise and deep;
They build eternal bulwarks, and command
Eternal strength to guard our native land.

In memoriam Francis Ledwidge

Seamus Heaney

Killed in France 31 July 1917

The bronze soldier hitches a bronze cape
That crumples stiffly in imagined wind
No matter how the real winds buff and sweep
His sudden hunkering run, forever craned

Over Flanders. Helmet and haversack,
The gun’s firm slope from butt to bayonet,
The loyal, fallen names on the embossed plaque —
It all meant little to the worried pet

I was in nineteen forty-six or seven,
Gripping my Aunt Mary by the hand
Along the Portstewart prom, then round the crescent
To thread the Castle Walk out to the strand.

The pilot from Coleraine sailed to the coal-boat.
Courting couples rose out of the scooped dunes.
A farmer stripped to his studs and shiny waistcoat
Rolled the trousers down on his timid shins.

At night when coloured bulbs strung out the sea-front
Country voices rose from a cliff-top shelter
With news of a great litter – “We’ll pet the runt!” –
And barbed wire that had torn a friesian’s elder.

Francis Ledwidge, you courted at the seaside
Beyond Drogheda one Sunday afternoon.
Literary, sweet-talking, countrified,
You pedalled out the leafy road from Slane.

Where you belonged, among the dolorous
And lovely: the May altar of wild flowers,
Easter water sprinkled in outhouses,
Mass-rocks and hill-top raths and raftered byres.

I think of you in your Tommy’s uniform,
A haunted Catholic face, pallid and brave,
Ghosting the trenches with a bloom of hawthorn
Or silence cored from a Boyne passage-grave.

It’s summer, nineteen-fifteen. I see the girl
My aunt was then, herding on the long acre.
Behind a low bush in the Dardanelles
You suck stones to make your dry mouth water.

It’s nineteen-seventeen. She still herds cows,
But a big strafe puts the candles out in Ypres:
‘My soul is by the Boyne, cutting new meadows…
My country wears her confirmation dress.’

‘To be called a British soldier while my country
Has no place among nations…’ You were rent
By shrapnel six weeks later. ‘I am sorry
That party politics should divide our tents.’

In you, our dead enigma, all the strains
Criss-cross in useless equilibrium
And as the wind tunes through this vigilant bronze
I hear again the sure confusing drum

You followed from Boyne water to the Balkans
But miss the twilit note your flute should sound.
You were not keyed or pitched like these true-blue ones
Though all of you consort now underground.

For the Union Dead

Robert Lowell

“Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam.”

The old South Boston Aquarium stands
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.

Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;
my hand tingled
to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the cowed, compliant fish.

My hand draws back. I often sigh still
for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom
of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,
I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized

fence on the Boston Common. Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting
as they cropped up tons of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens’ shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage’s earthquake.

Two months after marching through Boston,
half the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city’s throat.
Its Colonel is as lean
as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,
a greyhound’s gentle tautness;
he seems to wince at pleasure,
and suffocate for privacy.

He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man’s lovely,
peculiar power to choose life and die–
when he leads his black soldiers to death,
he cannot bend his back.

On a thousand small town New England greens,
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic.

The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier
grow slimmer and younger each year–
wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets
and muse through their sideburns . . .

Shaw’s father wanted no monument
except the ditch,
where his son’s body was thrown
and lost with his “niggers.”

The ditch is nearer.
There are no statues for the last war here;
on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling

over a Mosler Safe, the “Rock of Ages”
that survived the blast. Space is nearer.
When I crouch to my television set,
the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.

Colonel Shaw
is riding on his bubble,
he waits
for the blessèd break.

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.

Sailing To Byzantium

William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Growing Up DC: Requiem
Kateema Lee

“they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and I keep on remembering mine”
― Lucille Clifton


In the nation’s capital big chairs were made
for giants and monuments were made for gods.

Hinckley sat in St. Elizabeths and across the street
Aunt Rena cooked Cream of Wheat for Uncle George

in her first floor apartment off Martin Luther King Ave.
In the alley, another somebody jumped.


Away from the columns with acanthus
leaves and the labyrinth of working masses
she’s movah to three kids she walks to the bus
stop erry morning to take one of her girls
to half-day kindergarten
she sings she has six inch nails
has yaki thick dreams
wants to sit in the Big Chair
wants to be a monument


When growing up, fascinated with mountains,
volcanoes, monuments, ruins, and planets,
my fascination with landscapes and landmasses
was both earthly and otherworldly.

My mind, my neighborhood, my house
or apartment, linked to some mountainous place
perched so high I could see everything;
I could imagine all things;
Most times trying to find rock
footholds not meant for climbing,

yet sometimes climb the grassy side,
admiring peeks and valleys, mud, looking
sky, cityscape oblivious. Monuments

had no meaning, capitals, what I learned
about in school, and chocolate city was a black hole,
go-go, bamas-better-not-play birth home

where no one but us wanted life. I remember a where
where ground swallowed people but left their heads
just enough above ground so they could breathe.

Passive Voice

Laura Da’

I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.
Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting “by zombies”
after each one.
Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.
I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway’s historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village—
Where trouble was brewing.
Where, after further hostilities, the army was directed to enter.
Where the village was razed after the skirmish occurred.
Where most were women and children.
Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood—
stripped hands
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.



The Monument

Elizabeth Bishop

Now can you see the monument? It is of wood
built somewhat like a box. No. Built
like several boxes in descending sizes
one above the other.
Each is turned half-way round so that
its corners point toward the sides
of the one below and the angles alternate.
Then on the topmost cube is set
a sort of fleur-de-lys of weathered wood,
long petals of board, pierced with odd holes,
four-sided, stiff, ecclesiastical.
From it four thin, warped poles spring out,
(slanted like fishing-poles or flag-poles)
and from them jig-saw work hangs down,
four lines of vaguely whittled ornament
over the edges of the boxes
to the ground.
The monument is one-third set against
a sea; two-thirds against a sky.
The view is geared
(that is, the view’s perspective)
so low there is no “far away,”
and we are far away within the view.
A sea of narrow, horizontal boards
lies out behind our lonely monument,
its long grains alternating right and left
like floor-boards–spotted, swarming-still,
and motionless. A sky runs parallel,
and it is palings, coarser than the sea’s:
splintery sunlight and long-fibred clouds.
“Why does the strange sea make no sound?
Is it because we’re far away?
Where are we? Are we in Asia Minor,
or in Mongolia?”
An ancient promontory,
an ancient principality whose artist-prince
might have wanted to build a monument
to mark a tomb or boundary, or make
a melancholy or romantic scene of it…
“But that queer sea looks made of wood,
half-shining, like a driftwood, sea.
And the sky looks wooden, grained with cloud.
It’s like a stage-set; it is all so flat!
Those clouds are full of glistening splinters!
What is that?”
It is the monument.
“It’s piled-up boxes,
outlined with shoddy fret-work, half-fallen off,
cracked and unpainted. It looks old.”
–The strong sunlight, the wind from the sea,
all the conditions of its existence,
may have flaked off the paint, if ever it was painted,
and made it homelier than it was.
“Why did you bring me here to see it?
A temple of crates in cramped and crated scenery,
what can it prove?
I am tired of breathing this eroded air,
this dryness in which the monument is cracking.”

It is an artifact
of wood. Wood holds together better
than sea or cloud or and could by itself,
much better than real sea or sand or cloud.
It chose that way to grow and not to move.
The monument’s an object, yet those decorations,
carelessly nailed, looking like nothing at all,
give it away as having life, and wishing;
wanting to be a monument, to cherish something.
The crudest scroll-work says “commemorate,”
while once each day the light goes around it
like a prowling animal,
or the rain falls on it, or the wind blows into it.
It may be solid, may be hollow.
The bones of the artist-prince may be inside
or far away on even drier soil.
But roughly but adequately it can shelter
what is within (which after all
cannot have been intended to be seen).
It is the beginning of a painting,
a piece of sculpture, or poem, or monument,
and all of wood. Watch it closely.


The Peace Cairn

Andrew Blakemore

So high on the hillside not far from the village,
A peace cairn is growing there stone upon stone,
While people are praying the war to be ended,
They know God is with them and they’re not alone.

And as they look over their poor ravaged country,
That once held such beauty but now it’s all gone,
They look to the heavens with dreams of tomorrow,
And while there is sunlight their hope shall live on.

They carry a stone in their hand for a loved one,
Their name etched upon it held close to their heart,
The victims of war and their dearly beloved,
Of familes now ruined and all torn apart.

Their eyes filled with tears as they come to the peace cairn,
To place down their stone as the dawn greets the day,
But memories they’ll keep and they won’t be forgotten,
And while war continues they’ll come here to pray.

For these stones are the future each urging the soldier,
To lay down his arms and to join hands in prayer,
A lasting foundation that grows ever stronger,
For high on that hillside a peace exists there.



Myra Sklarew

Today the moon sees fit to come between a parched earth
and sun, hurrying the premature darkness. A rooster in the yard
cuts off its crowing, fooled into momentary sleep.
And soon the Perseid showers, broken bits
of the ancient universe, will pass through the skin of our
atmosphere. Time and space are alive over our city.

Final eclipse of the sun, last of this millennium, our city’s
brightness broken off. We have known other dark hours:
Here, coffin that slowly passes, I give you my sprig
of lilac—Lincoln’s death, winding procession toward sleep.
We have known slave coffles and holding pens in yards
not half a mile from our Capitol, wooden palings sunk in earth

to guarantee none would escape. In this freest city. Oh if earth
could talk. Earth does talk in the neatly framed yards
where death thinks to lay us down to rest. Asleep,
the marker stones. But not the voices, jagged bits
of memory, shards of poems. Sterling Brown. Our
human possessions and all they’ve left us. This whole city

sings their songs. Say their names. In this city
they are our monuments: Frederick Douglass, our
Rayford Logan, Alain Locke, Franklin Frazier, Georgia
Douglas Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, May Miller: Not sleep
but garlands left to us. Montague Cobb, William Hastie. Yards
of names. And here, the place where we unearth

an immigrant father of seven. He leans down—no earthly
reason for his choice—to pick up his nearest child. A yard-long
rack of brooms behind him, a bin of apples. Not the sleep
of cold, but autumn in Washington. 1913 or a bit
later. He stands awkwardly on 4 1/2 Street, S. W. Our
street photographer, who’s just come by with his city

chatter, ducks beneath a dark cloth. Monuments of the city
behind him, he leans over his black box camera in time to capture
that moment when the child will play her bit
part, pushing away from her father like a boat from shore. In the sleep
of winter, years later, she will become my mother. What yardstick
by which to measure importance? To measure earthly

agency? Each of us has monuments in the bone case of memory. Earth-
bound, I take my sac of marble and carry it down lonely city streets where our
generals on horseback and a tall bearded man keep watch over all their citizens.


The Monument of Kindness

Edgar Albert Guest

We do not build our monuments in stone,
The records of our life aren’t cast in steel;
We are forgot, if when the spirit’s flown
No human hearts our finger prints reveal.
If we have lived and died and left behind
No more than gold and lands that once were ours,
No trace of having served our fellow kind
Then wasted were our talents and our powers.
But if when we have gone our impress stays
On human hearts, whate’er has been our lot,
We need no marble shafts to mark our ways,
We shall live on, nor ever be forgot.


I’ve Searched . . .

G.K. Chesterton

I’ve searched all the parks
in all the cities
and found no statues
of committees.


Inez Milholland

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Upon this marble bust that is not I
Lay the round, formal wreath that is not fame;
But in the forum of my silenced cry
Root ye the living tree whose sap is flame.
I, that was proud and valiant, am no more; —
Save as a wind that rattles the stout door,
Troubling the ashes in the sheltered grate.
The stone will perish; I shall be twice dust.
Only my standard on a taken hill
Can cheat the mildew and the red-brown rust
And make immortal my adventurous will.
Even now the silk is tugging at the staff:
Take up the song; forget the epitaph.”


The Statues

William Butler Yeats

Pythagoras planned it. Why did the people stare?
His numbers, though they moved or seemed to move
In marble or in bronze, lacked character.
But boys and girls, pale from the imagined love
Of solitary beds, knew what they were,
That passion could bring character enough,
And pressed at midnight in some public place
Live lips upon a plummet-measured face.

No! Greater than Pythagoras, for the men
That with a mallet or a chisel” modelled these
Calculations that look but casual flesh, put down
All Asiatic vague immensities,
And not the banks of oars that swam upon
The many-headed foam at Salamis.
Europe put off that foam when Phidias
Gave women dreams and dreams their looking-glass.

One image crossed the many-headed, sat
Under the tropic shade, grew round and slow,
No Hamlet thin from eating flies, a fat
Dreamer of the Middle Ages. Empty eyeballs knew
That knowledge increases unreality, that
Mirror on mirror mirrored is all the show.
When gong and conch declare the hour to bless
Grimalkin crawls to Buddha’s emptiness.

When Pearse summoned Cuchulain to his side.
What stalked through the post Office? What intellect,
What calculation, number, measurement, replied?
We Irish, born into that ancient sect
But thrown upon this filthy modern tide
And by its formless spawning fury wrecked,
Climb to our proper dark, that we may trace
The lineaments of a plummet-measured face.


The Statue

Henry Abbey

All bold, great actions that are seen too near,
Look rash and foolish to unthinking eyes;
But at a distance they at once appear
In their true grandeur: so let us be wise,
And not too soon our neighbor’s deed malign,
Lest what seems crude should prove to be divine.

In Athens, when all learning center’d there,
Men reared a column of surpassing height
In honor of Minerva, wise and fair;
And on the top, which dwindled to the sight,
A statue of the goddess was to stand,
That wisdom might be known to all the land.

And he who, with the beauty in his heart,
Seeking in faultless work immortal youth,
Would mold this statue with the finest art,
Making the wintry marble glow with truth,
Should gain the prize: two sculptors sought the fame-
The prize they craved was an enduring name.

Alcamenes soon carved his little best;
But Phidias, beneath a dazzling thought
That like a bright sun in a cloudless west
Lighted his wide, great soul, with pure love wrought
A statue, and its changeless face of stone
With calm, far-sighted wisdom towered and shone.

Then to be judged the labors were unveiled;
But, at the marble thought, that by degrees
Of hardship Phidias cut, the people railed.
‘The lines are coarse, the form too large,’ said these;
‘And he who sends this rough result of haste
Sends scorn, and offers insult to our taste.’

Alcamenes’ praised work was lifted high
Upon the column, ready for the prize;
But it appeared too small against the sky,
And lacked proportion to uplooking eyes;
So it was quickly lowered and put aside,
And the scorned thought was mounted to be tried.

Surprise swept o’er the faces of the crowd,
And changed them as a sudden breeze may change
A field of fickle grass, and long and loud
The mingled shouts to see a sight so strange.
The statue stood completed in its place,
Each coarse line melted to a line of grace.



Kids Who Die

Langston Hughes

This is for the kids who die,
Black and white,
For kids will die certainly.
The old and rich will live on awhile,
As always,
Eating blood and gold,
Letting kids die.

Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi
Organizing sharecroppers
Kids will die in the streets of Chicago
Organizing workers
Kids will die in the orange groves of California
Telling others to get together
Whites and Filipinos,
Negroes and Mexicans,
All kinds of kids will die
Who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment
And a lousy peace.

Of course, the wise and the learned
Who pen editorials in the papers,
And the gentlemen with Dr. in front of their names
White and black,
Who make surveys and write books
Will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die,
And the sleazy courts,
And the bribe-reaching police,
And the blood-loving generals,
And the money-loving preachers
Will all raise their hands against the kids who die,
Beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets
To frighten the people —
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people —
And the old and rich don’t want the people
To taste the iron of the kids who die,
Don’t want the people to get wise to their own power,
To believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together

Listen, kids who die —
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht

But the day will come —
You are sure yourselves that it is coming —
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky —
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.



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