The World War I Monument was dedicated on the eleventh anniversary
of the Armistice on November 11, 1929 – Historic American Buildings Survey, 1987
my subject is war, and the pity of war
Toward dusk, a rich mauve-rose light filtered
from the western ridge through Providence.
A breeze ruffled leaves of the immense pin-
oak, where I hid with my elusive shepherdess
(Natasha). The town was blossoming before us
in its mixing-bowl of streams : violet shadows
welded with gray stones, the whine of cars;
the bay, the ocean shantied in the distance.
A spirit penetrates this place, Natasha said; but
how will they reckon who girds their dream?
Look here. She opens up a kind of prism –
doubled, hexagonal – crystalline. I angle out
through the lens. Like a sea-kaleidoscope
the city coalesced in a clerestory (swelled,
suffused with lambent mist). Its sevenfold
spectrum rayed from each dewlet, opening
in blinding jets toward an echo-arch, far
overhead... where the evening star (calm,
sweet, peaceful) seemed to send this balm
sailing back to the earth. You hardly know
your town, do you? Natasha smiled. This civitas,
this union, elegant grace & equilibrium – all this
is vaulted up in sacrifice. I looked to the river’s
edge. The fluted pillar of the Monument rose
to pierce the perimeter of Providence –
where lady Victory remembers time-worn,
bone-tired streets... nurses a wounded crown
of blistered plows. Let the Requiem commence.