A walking tour of the State House grounds

Setting out south on Main where heavy slab buildings choke the sky, I shuffle off, self-guided, no plan, zigzagging along the streets whose names remember our revolutionaries.Points of interest: to whom? What do I remember of the Confederate dead? And is there really honor in an elm descended from another elm under which Washington—even Washington—stood?

Setting out south on Main
where heavy slab buildings choke the sky,
I shuffle off,
self-guided, no plan,
zigzagging along the streets whose names
remember our revolutionaries.

Points of interest: to whom?
What do I remember of the Confederate dead?
And is there really honor in an elm
descended from another elm
under which Washington—even Washington—stood?

I am a daughter of the Revolution
a perfect,
straight-line
genealogical specimen.
Of this I am something like proud.
But those revolutionaries
begat Confederates
whose line extends
straight for me, too.
My jaw is pointed
and prominent
like my mother’s
and my cousin John C.’s.
He is five times removed
from me,
but never far
from here.

We don’t forget here.
Here we don’t forget.
We remember here.
Here we remember.
(Even if we change
the words
the tune
the truth.)

Circle back.
They awarded the building six Bronze Stars.
A building!
For valor?
For merit?
For spite.

And scattered on the lawn
these monuments
of granite and bronze
of persistence and revision
of contribution and grievance
seek your attention.
Remember the Spanish American War—
There used to be a cannon here!
The Palmetto Regiment:
remember that they were!—
all the better if you remember why.
And the people who came here
in chains, remember them, too,
if you insist.

Mottled granite
and graying bronze
perform in black and white:
television static.
But the peacock’s tail
is proud and bright
and waves in the wind:
The road ends,
and the traffic stops,
and the battle flag
takes center stage.
To hell with monuments;
we broadcast here in color.

Back turned
I can walk away, north on Main
but I know, I know.
I remember.

You are here. But you could be here or here. I mean, if you aren't too busy.