05.24.2019
Weekly poem on Trump Presidency

 

DORRIANE LAUX

Island

On the median strip, a child’s
plastic castle, two purple towers
surrounded by a yellow moat. 

Cars chug toward the overpass,
the purple towers risen among weeds
and trash, the grass a blond prairie,
the first long hot days of the republic.   

No sharks or sea monsters lurk in the moat,
no buffalo forage or roam. All is still
except for the spinning black tires 

which must seem like a series
of upended tornados, kicking
crushed glass and bits of gravel
that plink and careen 

off the plastic stonework. I see it
each day and wonder what
antic trickster dodged and zigzagged  

across the busy street
to place it on the median strip, what my
husband insists on calling the “medium”,
though I’ve explained the correct usage 

many times, telling him it’s also called
a “central reservation” which conjures
the image of American Indians 

gathered on an island of dead grass
between two lanes of speeding traffic.
It can also be called a “central nature strip”
which contains a narrow band

of ornamental plants, beautiful and useless,
though I like best the term “neutral ground”
coined in New Orleans, a place where French, 

Spanish, Choctaw, Africans,
and Vietnamese settled, home
to Jazz, Creole, Zydeco and the Delta Blues,
where they built cities for the dead 

and still bring offerings to the voodoo Queen,
leaving cigars, white rum and candy, oils,
incense and herbs.  Neutral ground, 

no man’s land, a place between two
opposing directions, left unoccupied
out of fear or uncertainty, under dispute.
This is what I think: America   

is that plastic castle, twin towers
reborn in purple light, a whole tired
tempest tossed nation huddled 

inside, climbing the walls, our backs
against them, vegetation sparse
beneath an unrelenting sun, a child’s
empty water gun poking through one 

chiseled window.  And at night, the stars
so bright they light the asphalt on
either side so it shimmers like
a dark impassable sea.

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Dorianne Laux’s most recent collection is Only As The Day Is Long: New and Selected, W.W. Norton. She is also author of The Book of Men, winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize and Facts about the Moon, winner of the Oregon Book Award. She teaches poetry at North Carolina State and Pacific University. 

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