If fifty thousand candles can be
the waxy, whispered remains of dead boys
in a cold, November rain,
then Kilby might wrap this night
in chords seized from an acoustic guitar,
as if melody waits unformed
somewhere near the Ellipse,
as if harmony can settle the score
and not swell unexpectedly
thirty years from now when a blood-red BMW
points up the 101,
purposeful enough.

If a drunk and stumbling bum can insist
against the 2 a.m. terrors of Arlington Cemetery
that we imbibe his history
and heft an icy, dented mortar shell
made slick by the Potomac mist,
then Salzmann might write a poemmoratorium
to reduce or enlarge
this rainy night of America’s soul,
as if cadences tried out on the Mall
can settle into lines
that won’t overstay their welcome
and float back insistently
thirty years from now when promises and poems
are petals scratched from southern soils,
then gone.

(c) 1998, 2006 by Kenneth Salzmann


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