Custodians Tradition as Usual | Jonathan Fletcher

Brett Sayles
via Pexels

Custodians of Our Democracy

Who cleaned The Capitol of the mess the mob left behind:
bagged spent spray cans and empty water bottles, body 
armor and cigarette butts, hauled them to the dumpsters?

Who swept the littered floors of the Rotunda and Statuary,
Crypt and Speaker’s Office, collected into dustpans the
splinters of broken benches, shards of smashed windows?

Who scrubbed down the marble surfaces, wiped the scuff
marks of shoes from the patterned tile floors, removed 
the smears of blood and feces from the sandstone walls? 

Who draped plastic film over Madison and Adams, traces
of chemicals present on their portraits, a bust of Zachary 
Taylor, too, his nose and lips still streaked with blood?

Who rechecked the chambers and offices, locked up, then
cleared out for the night, the secular sanctuary back safe 
in their care, yet indelibly stained by a disorderly horde?

An American Tradition

On July 9th, 1776, upon hearing The Declaration of Independence read 
aloud for the first time, General Washington and his troops charged 
the Bowling Green. Those patriots, moved by Jefferson’s 
words to remove every gilded symbol of their oppression, 
hoisted ropes around the 4,0000-pound effigy of George III, 
mounted on horseback, robed like the Romans, as they chanted:
Tear him down! Tear him down!                                          
They then tore from its base that garish likeness of lead which had long 
stood above them, smashed that cruel Crown to pieces, and, in 
a most fitting reuse of that malleable material into matériel, 
melted His Majesty into 42,088 musket balls. Then, 
through volleys of musket fire, they returned the lead 
from that loathed likeness and won their independence.

Kentucky as Usual

At the Derby, the thoroughbreds, 
chestnut and palomino, brown 
and gray, roan and black, each 
bridled in bit and headstall, take 
off at the shot of a starter pistol in 
a race that lasts around 2 minutes.

Authentic gets off to a slow start, yet 
in the stretch catches up with Tiz 
the Law, goes head-to-head with 
the bay stallion, yet overtakes
him in the end, wins by a length 
and a quarter, with a time of 2:00.61

The first-place racehorse pays out to 
his bettors: 1.8 million in all, and 
though he’s awarded none of the 
purse, all of which totals 3 million, 
the public will remember his name, 
more so than the owner’s or jockey’s.

On the hallway floor, Breonna Taylor lives well past 2 minutes, possibly 5 or 6, 
coughs as she struggles to breathe, 
after 7 officers draw their pistols, 
then fire into her apartment, 32 
times in all, trample down the front door.

For more than 20 minutes, in a pool of blood on the hallway floor, Breonna lies unresponsive, and with no medical attention, the emergency room technician dies at the age of 26, the time of death approximate,
listed on the certificate: 12:48 am.

To Breonna’s family, Louisville awards 12 million, none of which will bring her back, but like the bay colt who won the Derby, mostly unknown until Kentucky, she, too, leaves a legacy, rightfully remembered and honored, more than the winner of any race.

©2022 Jonathan Fletcher
All rights reserved
These poems originally appeared in Boundless 2021: The Anthology of the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival (FlowerSong Press)

Jonathan Fletcher…

…,originally from San Antonio, Texas, currently resides in New York City, where he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.  He has been published in Arts Alive San AntonioClips and Pages, Door is a Jar, DoubleSpeak, FlowerSong Press, Lone Stars, OneBlackBoyLikeThat Review, riverSedge, Synkroniciti, The Thing Itself, TEJASCOVIDO, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Voices de la Luna, Waco WordFest.  His work has also been featured at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.