Whose streets restrict imagination to the alphabet
Or numbers or the names of states;
Whose rarer beauties, as the White House or that Spartan box
From which black Lincoln gazes at
The Capitol, far off, where sophistry proliferates,
Are overwhelmed by Pergamene
Debauch of geometric grandeur, miles of peristyles.
From there the doves in vulture flocks
Circle above the singed and arid parks, that habitat
Of French adventurers caught in bronze.
Haunt of deceit in triplicate, whose thieves steal worthless files;
Only the Treasury has no locks.
Third Rome, or Fourth, or Fifth, in which the children of the slaves
Mill past Colonial houses crammed
With drinks and debts and spurious Hepplewhite, where congregate
The spy, the politician, and
The moody millionaire, who, in the mirrored eagle’s gaze,
Lie by rote to one another. Knaves
Abound - the ice-eyed columnists congealed in prophecies
Forever false. And there is grand
Bribery like a faithful hound-dog sprawled across the floor,
Slick simulated marble squares,
Of lobbyist and lawyer. Here great wingless failures fall
Upon a sleazy Southern town,
The princes of the earth. Like Belisarius they beg
Beside revolving Caesar’s door.
And underneath those trees the gasoline embellished airs
Of summer waft the traveller down
The boulevards designed for gun-fire at imperious mobs -
Of governments clerks, perhaps. How strange
That Washington, one of the few in history who were good,
Should have for monument this city.
But time on grassy feet will mount the endless granite stairs.
Acanthus leaves will all be curled
About the moss and violet. What various and marvelled ruins then!
There will be pathos pure enough
For that quiet general who disclosed the last vast nation of the world.