On Jenkins' Hill

                                    (The old name for Capitol Hill)

The weather came over this low knoll, west to east,
before there was a word for leaf-fall, before
there were any leaves. Weathers will nuzzle and preen
whatever earthwork we leave here. And we know now,
don't we, that we will be leaving, by fire or ice,
our own or His, or at the very worst, nobody's.
May that be a long time off. Now,
it is our hill for debating.

The dome at the top of the hill, heavy with reference,
is iron out of the soil, yearned up as if it were white stone,
the way for a time our thought and rhetoric yearned upward.
Here our surrogates sit. It is almost too much for them,
some days, to make the world go around.
They are urged to clean it, to sully it more grandly,
to let it alone. We have elected them, they are our elect.

If we only knew what to ask, there are trees, white oaks,
not far from here that have seen the whole thing.
Year after year they have put on new growth, dropped leaves.
I can tell you this much: it is a badly informed citizen
who stands on this hill and scoffs.


William Meredith, Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems, Northwestern University Press, 1997.