Today's poem is by Christopher Bakken

Some Things Along Strada C.A. Rosetti
Bucharest, Apri12008

Far too quiet last night out on the street.
Dreams of police. Today we hog four chairs
in a cafe off Revolution Square,
where solitude and expensive coffee
agitate our collective memory.

The man in the blue bathrobe, he is ours,
blabbering, twisted like an ampersand
on his perch between bank and bar: one hand
on his cane, the other held out for beer.
He hasn't had a shave in nineteen years.

We claim the palaces and museums,
the royal portraits on the Atheneum,
but blame the stray dogs and immigrant scum
on the old regime, whose blank bravado
still hardens all the faces in the Metro.

This week the diplomats and presidents
will affirm Europe's doctrine in the East;
the yellow stars of the Union will increase
another star or two, new flags to cover
the old murals, the sickles and hammers.

Still, some things along Strada Rosetti
blur more than they clarify: budding trees
compete with wide Ottoman balconies
for the right to make shade. Light, meanwhile,
stagnates in a satellite dish. All style

is sacrificed to communication,
all music to the traffic's cloying hiss.
The beautiful civil servant knows this,
since she works with facts, and yet her high heels
and headphones imply there's something she feels

we all feel—we want to hear ourselves think,
we want to rise above the uniform
sidewalk blocks. The old cobblestones were torn
up years ago, along with the mansions
and monasteries. The old city was done

being old, we were informed. Not that we asked.
Those who were shot have had twenty years
to make peace with the silence they silenced here,
even if the dictator failed to confess.
His concrete horizon's left to remind us

what it takes to scare the mind out of a man.
We want to see ourselves too. The police
block every street today, but they're our police.
Neither gypsy dogs nor glue-sniffing teens
can take that from us. We know it means

something now to sit and read a book,
to read something true. Yes, we want to be
seen, but not to be watched—this, the relief
of a generation who couldn't say, but knew
the National Library belonged to them too.

There are five real newspapers to read now
and a sign across the street can advertise
LEGAL TRANSLATIONS, but it's still not wise
to have speech handled by professionals.
Better now to just shut up, pay the bill,

join the amateur rabble on the street,
or claim a place along the balustrade.
Just outside, the uniformed riot squad
is shoring up its bulletproof phalanx.
The anarchists will refuse to break ranks,

will affirm their faith in all disorder.
Yes, we've had disorder here. On this square,
in fact, here on display, the souvenir
of a body politic that has a soul:
our library, still pocked with bullet holes.

Copyright © 2009 Christopher Bakken All rights reserved
from Parnassus: Poetry in Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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