Washington

 
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.