Ode to Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War
I took a room on 10th Avenue
to be near, to witness
a majestic statue’s final days in New York City
Atop his pedestal, a resistant young man
astride a powerful steed
silhouetted and sanctified by neon, in Times Square.
Kehinde formed this statue
Now it redirects a path for us below
The rumors of war – they are rumors no more
They surround and suffocate
On the statue’s stoop, I sit with a cigarette-smoking Spiderman
Still costumed after posing for Instagram
All around giant LED screens, the city’s sirens
The sounds of slurring voices
Heads hovering over smartphones
Your silence resounds.
The cranes are coming
to remove you to Virginia
Tonight the city’s snow stains your shoulders,
and the “good” people on both sides
Look up: an ad’s half-clothed model, “queen of holiday parties”
Listen: the haunting whisper of a coy passerby, “cocaine?”
It’s the wee hours now, the cranes are coming
To remove you to Virginia
To take you to Richmond
To take you to Richmond
See that you are not troubled
Removal crews have arrived
The machinery is in place.
Your rebellious gaze looks West
Over proud shoulders, a warrior’s pose
In New York you welcomed shoppers
In Richmond, Lee and Traveller
Auden asks us to consider Henry James,
who upon observing Monument Avenue
wrote of melancholy, a bereft image, an infelicitous look
Tomorrow you decamp, South
Past capitols, the Mason-Dixon
Charlottesville and The Wilderness
Which is more welcoming, Times Square or where you ride?
Which is more prepared – horse or rider?
Say your name.
Are you seething or are you seeking?
Are you preaching or are you teaching?
for all these things must come to pass
Like Lee’s lieutenants you’ve left before dawn
for Richmond – Virginia.
But the end is not yet
Greg Shaw is a former journalist, co-author of several works of nonfiction on technology and the future (Harper Business and Columbia University), and a poetry student of Frances McCue, founder of Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. He is founder of Clyde Hill Publishing.
The Ekphrastic Review
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