Monday, October 19, 2015

Clarinda Harriss


Noon in August Baltimore: A young man
in a charcoal-gray suit and rep tie and
a young woman in a severe blue blazer
converge at the Lee-Jackson Memorial.

I always idle at the foot of the larger than life
and largely invisible bronze statue (one of
the few double equestrian statues in the world)
if traffic at the busy yet woodsy intersection

of Wyman Park Drive and Howard Street
doesn't get too honky. I can't believe I wrote
honky, and I do not really digress in saying so
because I am one, and a flaming liberal one,

who nevertheless wore a yellow party dress
to lay a yellow rose-wreath at the pedestalled
hooves . The dedication ceremony: I was nine.
I fear for these beautiful horses, Lee's Traveller

And Jackson’s Little Sorrel. The professionals
there today are obviously lawyers preparing
the work of putting them down. The light changes
but there’s nobody behind me. I watch.

I watch as the pair fling their briefcases down
just about where I laid those roses, clamber up
on the pedestal, and right there, in the noon
shadow of the horses’ long bronze bellies,

begin to make love, disturbing nothing but
a few minor articles of their own clothes.

Clarinda reads "Daughter of the Confederacy":

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Clarinda confesses: "The poem itself says it all in the way of inspiration. I love the statue, especially the horses, and always lurk at that traffic light as long as I can--it's a route I travel constantly. I do fear its demolition. which has, in fact, been proposed. Mostly I just see pedestal, horses and tired-looking male faces, all stone and bronze--but sometimes more fleshly visions appear. The story in the poem is true. Though I suppose fornicating at high noon on a public statue is a crime theoretically, the real crime would be to demolish a very rare and beautiful work of art in the name of political correctness."

CLARINDA HARRISS is professor emerita of English at Towson University and the longtime publisher of BrickHouse Books, Inc., Maryland's oldest literary press.

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