The stiff spokes of this wheel

touch the sore spots of the earth.

On the Potomac, swan-white

power launches keep breasting the sulphurous wave.

Otters slide and dive and slick back their hair,

raccoons clean their meat in the creek.

On the circles, green statues ride like South American

liberators above the breeding vegetation—

prongs and spearheads of some equatorial

backland that will inherit the globe.

The elect, the elected . . . they come here bright as dimes,

and die dishevelled and soft.

We cannot name their names, or number their dates—

circle on circle, like rings on a tree—

but we wish the river had another shore,

some further range of delectable mountains,

distant hills powdered blue as a girl’s eyelid.

It seems the least little shove would land us there,

that only the slightest repugnance of our bodies

we no longer control could drag us back.

  • Robert Lowell, “July in Washington” from Collected Poems. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

  • Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2003)

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