“Green Men on Horseback in Baltimore” by Clarinda Harris

On the circles, green statues ride like South American liberators above the breeding vegetation—Robert Lowell, “July in Washington”


I. Walking down the steep hill
from the Washington Monument
toward Centre Street, Kilo and I
descend into a steamy tunnel
of heat. July in Baltimore.
John Eager Howard and the
Marquis de Lafayette bushwhack
green undergrowth with their swords.
Liberadores, no conquistadores.
Virginia creeper and wild clematis
keep up their crawl ready to
wind around fetlock and withers
slither to the Monument’s iron fence
glide between the green stones
of Mount Vernon Methodist Church.
Given a sultry month with no
mercenaries to beat it back green
growth could make the whole city
seem a primal jungle if seen
from the sky by a lost pilot.


II. A doctor I enjoyed a fling with
after a skin cancer scare one summer
had an office at Monument and Cathedral.
I could see George Washington’s priapic
scroll from the waiting room window
as the receptionist and nurse clocked out.
He’s now retired to the horsey County
as befits the Von he added to his Butcher’s
Hill name. The practice is now all-oncology.
I have an appointment there to find out
what’s bleeding inside me. I’ll drive past
smooth green pastures where chestnut and bay
horses gleam still as statues in the July sun.
Hired colonials will have hacked back
intruders. But the natives will be restless.
Duckweed, clover, pea vine, Queen Anne’s
hordes disguised in lace stamp at the gates.
Kudzu twirls its lariats. The air will steam
green in the heat of so much growing.
It could be the tropic of cancer.

Clarinda Harriss became the editor and director of New Poets Series (BrickHouse Books’ previous incarnation) after her predecessor left that position. An accomplished poet in her own right, Harriss is a professor emerita and former chair of the English department at Towson University. In addition to editing some of BrickHouse’s most successful books, she is the author of Forms of Verse: British and American, The Night Parrot, License Renewal for the Blind, Dirty Blue Voice, Air Travel, and Mortmain, as well as co-translator of The Pearl from Middle English to modern English. With poet Moira Egan, she is co-editor of Hot Sonnets, an anthology of erotic sonnets of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Harriss Poetry Prize, awarded annually by Baltimore’s City Lit Project, was named in her honor. Her many-decades long work with prison writers continues.

Image courtesy of Daderot and Wikipedia, altered by Cartoonize.

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