Beneath the Lion's Head

It smells the same, the truck exhaust, the woks,
The burning cigarettes. The wind picks up
The sidewalks' trash. A thousand voices
Merge into a roar among the market stalls
As bent old men and women shuffle home
With dinner in their bags. The sun sinks lower.
One by one, each window in each high rise
Glows; a TV's on, a kitchen light...

...But, when it's dark, the smell is different.
Black-clad children crowd the streets.
The stalls are closed. The chanting starts,
And, in the distance, men in armor march
Together, swinging clubs and shooting
Cans of teargas. That would be the smell!
The kids smash windows, spray paint walls.
A few throw bottles filled with gasoline.
The men in armor charge and swing at heads,
And tackle those they can, and, when
The evening's done, a dozen kids go off
To jail, a dozen bent old men and women
Curse the hoodlums wrapped in armor.

Nobody knows quite what to do. The kids
See life as it was ending, all they cherished
Swept away. The men in armor see rebellion.
Such men tend to favor order. Neither balks.
The streets are strewn with broken banners,
Teargas cans. The stalls will open in
The morning, but the smell is not the same,
And what was can't be sustained. Something
Must give, they all agree, but what?
No one can say.




Poetry by Lawrence Beck The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 52 times
Written on 2019-10-31 at 00:17

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