Monument Park

by Mike Alexander

As windshield wipers scrape the glass, our hourglass
distorted lot, cars corralled, we locals rally
down at this strip of Fort Lee, by Bridgeview deli,
to buy foodstuffs, combustibles, marked-down items,

& precipitate weather, between Palisades
& Parker, stock up on the essential tabloids,
street maps, greeting cards & occasional verses,
scratch-offs & videotape cornucopias,

ransack the disheveled shelves, scramble for cover,
as if under fire, as if the driving rain
scratched across corraded petroleum filmstock,
as yellowed, as melodramatic as The Birth

of a Nation, in all its insatiate frenzy,
this action, this onslaught, somehow correlative
to these customers hard at their customary
sprees, a cast of thousands, cut to extreme close-up,

all their faces wet, their eyes wild, their mouths working,
& look at the captions — under new management,
thirty minute limit, next day service, take out
& delivery, twenty four hour banking,

grand opening, residential parking only,
violators will be summonsed, immobilized
& towed, this last ordinance (ninety-thirty-one)
preserves the quietude of English street, due east

from the lot, higher ground, its houses bivouacked
against the rain, against encroachment, red brickface
& greying aluminum, suburban estates
united in various states of disrepair,

sequestered by shade trees & trellises, landscaped
indifferently, shy, revolutionary
artifacts sleeping just below top soil,
& Glory still clinging to a flag pole above

one garden, on the grounds of a fortress first known
as Constitution, then as Lee, & then unknown —
the gentry here defend their nonpartisanship,
eschew full regalia, affect no causes,

neither Whig, nor Tory, swearing by regular
hours, frequenting malls, scarcely voting, & yet
their nursemaids brave inclemency, even in
determined rain, carry the nurslings in their care

down to this monument, in order that the young
may play below the words cut on the bluestone base
of this Rebelmen statue — two patriots, two scouts,
keep watch as if this rock were still under attack,

alert as sprint-runners or silent celluloid
cliffhangers, while cars & bulldozers claim the last
open spaces, stop & change places at quarter-
hour intervals, filling meters one quarter

at a time, for that’s how we measure historic
rainfall, while monumental Palisades erupt
in thunder — a battery of mortar cannon
redoubles over Fort Lee like a starting gun.

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