This week, the assignment for my online class with The Writer's Studio was to write a lyric poem that described a public event or space. The goal was to capture the feeling of the public event as well as the speaker's attitude toward the event using descriptive language. I don't particularly care for most public events: crowds make me uncomfortable, and I can't handle loud noises. I couldn't come up with anything warm and fuzzy about parades or ball games. But I do have a few feelings about crowds and tourists in DC.
Disdain For Public Event in Capital City
From myriad undetectable sources emanate
tobacco, fresh from anywhere but CVS;
body odor, from the fledgling adolescent,
too old to spurn deodorant,
too young to know the difference;
sweet salty butter, from the sallow vendor,
sickened from the radiation of microwaves;
These swirling scents
suffuse the once-breathable air
with the flurry and torrent of the
patriotic visitor enamored with an American pastime,
the zealous hockey fan donning the overpriced, oversized jersey,
Bellies splay over snug mom jeans,
Toes out of long-ago-appropriate sandals,
Tiny hands out of last year’s winter garb.
the hordes and hordes and hordes
who communicate their whereabouts
to each other via speakerphone,
and park hulking bright-white Suburbans in fire lines,
and drive like their grandmothers
down Pennsylvania Avenue
shut down Rock Creek Parkway,
scurry to and fro, unawares and anxious:
to overwhelm the bleachers,
to root for the underdog,
to sing along with the choir,
to cheer for the honoree.
Wrinkled, hoary vendors shout
like the forest green Starbucks Siren,
luring in an unsuspecting tourist
to fish in his fanny-pack for cash,
exchanging it for overpriced t-shirts
made in China,
on sale to commemorate said rituals
multinational, multibillion-dollar corporations
that lobby for business tax breaks
and graciously provide unlivable wages to employees,
forcing their children to consume the processed breakfasts,
the packaged peanut butter and jelly pies,
that are distributed every morning
at their crumbling, leaky schools.
Ritual after ritual after ritual,
for this hero and that one:
honored in this fair city,
this unrepresented district.
The tourists, eager to commemorate said occasion
and justify the expense of air travel
by solidifying the memory of being
at this place in this very moment,
sport those new matching shirts
which boast the clever, turquoise logo of the event.
The tourist, together with the rest of the tourists,
builds blockades of ignorance
across the cobblestone sidewalks
and often-out-of-service escalators,
pausing to ask Siri how to navigate
this capital city, this city built on a grid.
The anthem, the cheer, the wave, the chant,
the flag, the tweet, the memento, the selfie:
the collective act of commemoration.
What if there were
silence and sterility instead;
nothing hummed in unison;
a dearth of earnest guests
without their souvenirs
... no one intruding,
creating nothing, leaving nothing behind?