Graffiti on The Lee Monument | Gray

Graffiti on The Lee Monument
Richmond, Virginia 2020

My friend studies graffiti
From Roman ruins
I once heard her speak on the things
We learn from words arrested by time
When ash rained down and paused life
Before it could be curated into
Narrative sanitized to serve power
And I look at the statue
In the center of the road
That runs directly into my house
And I wonder what historians
Would make of it
Were we to be unearthed after burial
By a rain of sudden ash today
Exaltation of wars lost
Cries of pain and liberation
Coexisting on that marble
What will history say
Of the part I played
When it came in teargas plumes
Up the road to my door
Did I answer, or peer between the blinds
Afraid. Till time moved on
When they dissect our memory
Hold this crossroads
History meeting urgency
Of tonight and live-streamed sudden storms
How will they interpret
Urgent scribblings of righteous anger
Expletives and prayers
History denied a people
Too long, too late
Till at last
Fire falls


Last night
Some of my city burned
This morning after surveying
The remains
I decided to finish painting
My dining room table: blue
And the chairs
Confederate gray
Irony not lost
The whole world is exploding
In black and white and fire
On Pentecost Sunday
No less
I think there is a sermon here
In the gaping mouth
Of a burnt-out storefront
I told my children to look
This is history
Don’t look away
Is there any room for gray?
Abstract sacrifice
Concrete strewn with glass
And looted video games
Stepping over sprawling expletives
My children see them
I tell them they do not
Need to look away
I do not know where to stand
Between the primal urge
To retreat to safety
And the Holy call
To insist even voices
That hurl curses
Be heard
City crews are already out
Returning the monuments
To their pristine state
Leaving the homes and stores
and streets to clean their own debris
How fast the default to whiteness
Is restored
I walk this street every day
I know this city
I already know
As I apply my brushstrokes
Carefully, prayerfully
Covering every spot

There is no room for gray

About Rachel Loughlin

Rachel Loughlin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University where she received the Undergraduate Poetry Award. She is a graphic designer, eternally optimistic gardener, runner, muralist, and writer living in Richmond, Virginia. Her work appears in Pure Slush Books, Green Ink Poetry, and Kind of a Hurricane Press.

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