A Running Record

(Meridian Hill Park: July 1st 2008 — October 1, 2008)


Across land



Any among
Could be a threat
If the pigeons congregate
And you must wash this park
For its redevelopment

As the blogroll proclaims that everyone is pissed off
Because it’s going so slowly
            (all the grass is still roped off).
Although, they’ve finished Phase One of the project
            (you’d never guess how expensive it is to
            maintain a water feature like that).


The eclecticism of urban parks
Is not limited to their architecture

But is equally present
In the greetings of their participants:
A nod, a blank stare,
A sip of a 40 from a brown bag, a good morning.


Heavy breathing is a symptom of running’s footfall.

And although it is just this run;
A singular distance, a few couples
Drunks, drug dealers.
In a whisper

It all expands out.
Words themselves
Swell interminably

Until they explode
And we are left
Unable to understand each other.


In the center of the park’s curve:
Possessions rolled up in black
Though colored plastic spills.

Head resting at a 45-degree angle.
That’s just unnatural for a man to live like that.
There must be something supporting his head.

Equally, there must be something
Pushing down
On his entire life.


Down the stairs
Two by two;
Feet at a 45-degree angle
Past Dante
Lost midway up a hill.
I ask you
Could he be mistaken for Malcolm X?


First bench:
African slouched with Bach, pink shirt.
The other beside, foils through an Ethiopian newspaper.

Second bench:
El Salvadorian in a Guanacaste hat
Being gaffled by an elderly Jehovah’s Witness

(a link; a barricade; a link)

Religion marches on certain streets
In uncertain times.

Third bench:
Snapshots, confused maps
Water weight digging into their shoulders:
It’s hotter here than ____________.


Scratch ‘Guanacaste’
Put in ‘Rounded Army Hat
With drawstring’.

Further rotations of the wheel
Contradict our assumptions
With details of the world’s own.


Performance: May the everyday fold past each day
And into what you have become.

As if feet were water
Shoving energy up
But you know
It always slips through the fingers
And keeps dripping down the brow:

The force behind words:
Plungers that sit behind the truth

Within which algae flourishes.


Two small smooth stone tracks
On the park’s Western stairs
Demonstrate the symbolic course of water;
The symbolic course of me;
The of course of history. In that course
A person’s potential for change
Is at stake.


A wheelbarrow at the end of reconstruction.
A couple of facts determine this neighborhood:
            1) a thriving African-American community, the
                ”black Broadway.”
            2) the assassination of Martin Luther King  and
                subsequent rioting.
We are hopefully generating a third seminal fact:
A post-race urbanity.


Scribbling in black ballpoint on a folded printout.

She is dressed nice, summer nice, not career nice
But still nice. The sharp edges of the formatted ink
Must direct her
Where to go, what to say.
Whereas the current easy loopy doodling
Of her anxious self
Clearly demonstrates where she is:
Waiting for the interview.
She allows, forces
All the excuses, reasons to leave
To flow out of her pen.
Just a half hour to go.


The unmarried opulence of presidential antics:
Skateboarding slope, digital brushes with light.

They glide at Buchanan’s feet
Not knowing the policies he pondered.
Come to think of it:
Do any of us really know
The policies Buchanan pondered?


His long Ethiopian fingers
Are pushed together, clamped
As if in prayer
But look again
His head rests upon
What is supposed to point.
He is thoughtlessly praying.
We are thoughtlessly believing
In representations of prayer.
We’ll never know if addiction or art
Are merely accident. It’s just something
We’ll have to live with.


Why all the beautiful people
Know all the other beautiful people:

The pool below the waterfall
Is wider
On both sides.
On both sides
Of the waterfall, both left and right
Petals, primarily rose
Gather in whirlpools
Making some contemplate beauty
Others merely think of
Drowning in similar circumstances.
Although, I don’t see where the brown ones go
After they’ve made their time.


Triangular Adidas Cap
Same as my socks. But I swear them
Because of a logo.
They were just the cheapest.
A blue newspaper sack
Carefully lines his left hand.
His right
Tightly grips a black leash
Attached to a boxer crapping.
For lack of a better name
And due to the fact
That I may never see him again
I’ll call him
The Good Neighbor.


You can make your eyes do funny things.
You can
If you so choose
Isolate one bunch of oak leaves
And conceal the fact
(from yourself at least)
That they are attached
To an extremely old tree
On an even older hill.


Joan  of  Arc’s  ”erection  at  no cost  to the  United
States  was  approved  under  an  Act  of   Congress
March 20, 1922 (42 Stat. 468). Dedicated January
 6, 1922.”

Since Joan of Arc is on a pedestal and I am behind
I can place her
(at least in perception)
Wherever I want
Depending on where I stand:
Stomping on a tree, treading on a roof deck,
Having her horse speared by the Washington
(as I mentioned before). I can stop her hose
In midair. These are the powers of perception
She reserved
For individuals
And individuals alone
In this town of reservations, qualifications,
Stipulations, regulations, and addendums.


The 15th President (Buchanan’s statue)
Held that
Secession was illegal
But that going to war
To prevent secession
Was also illegal.
Thus, he was the great pause.


Named: the prime Meridian
Through White House’s center.

I think it’s
On exact axis with that columned powerhouse;
Is it? You obviously can’t see that far.

I guess not exact
Since the WH
Blocks 16th at the end.

But it’s on the same longitude as
The original District of Columbia milestone marker
Pounded down on
April 15th, 1791 at Jones Point, Virginia
By Andrew Ellicott

Assisted by Benjamin Banneker
The famed African-American
Astronomer and mathematician

After whom
Many schools are named.


Today the park is administered by Rock Creek Park
Which means
Security is federalized.

At night, their rounds make
A space for picnics, lover’s walks
Children’s tantrums: he’s just tired.

Nothing serious.
Thank God for the petty.
It means we are safe.


Things change.
Cities can mobilize capital to make them change:
To see your change in an object; Magnificent!
Whatever you ask
Someone else will be asking something else.

Mainly visions of

A city has no plateaus
But is merely constant growth and contraction.
Although she failed to convince the right people
To move the White House to Meridian Hill Park.
16th and U and New Hampshire: the Balfour.
Mary Henderson’s dream of a grand boulevard
After her husband retired.
Or was it merely a real estate con?
Buy property above the city’s Northern limit
Create reputational cascades
Rake in the dough.
However, she gave the land
For the Congressional Club
A non-partisan meeting place
For the spouses of Congressmen
When that would have only been wives.


His smokes and fountains, mowed.
Jeans, knees up under chin.
Gripped anxiety of transience.

Starling’s own proliferation
Provided an offensive analogy for
Conservatives’ fears of immigration.


Look, white buds signify safety.
You see someone with expensive sneakers.
It can mean a lot of things.
But I think that
An iPod means something about work
Or the appearance of it
Or I might be wrong;
I might be putting myself in a dangerous situation.


“Andiamo, already cut, get this one!”
Bellows florescent green
I’m talking about the color of his vest
Not his skin, which was more black
Communicating with a lighter Latino
Who must work for the government
At least indirectly
Since this park is maintained
By the National Park System
It has a brown sign.
That’s another color.


He leaves his bag on the bench
While he leans his back on the lower portion
Usually reserved for the bottom or the thigh.
He leaves his bottom on the sidewalk
In front of the bench, now you have the picture;
Flips through the free paper
Shoots warning glances at his backpack
Full as a homeless person’s bag must be
Splitting up its raggedy sides, but still functional
Still very functional. I’ve always wondered how
If someone is competent enough to sell
The Spare Change homeless paper
He just doesn’t sell the Washington Post
Which people still daily read?


Marketing Vitamin Water between classes.
Slightly below, (that is, funnier than) Whole Foods
But slightly above the corner store (though bringing
Its shelves within range of other nutritious items).
Thus, we will never know
Whose hand held the bottle
Whose orange label was released and fell sticking
To the water feature’s stair.


Time shifting the run
Up two hours to 7:30.
Later it will be too hot.
Thus, a note:
C, went running.
The paper’s on the table when you get up.
Love you,

But to run earlier
Is to encounter different activities:
As I’ve said before
Parks are
Multipurpose institutions.

I’m okay with multipurpose
Just give me a quota system
For runners.


The more dogwalkers and runners there are
The more drugs and prostitution
Will be squeezed to the edges of the park.
I’m okay with that.
I think I’m even okay with marginalizing
The gay pickup scene
To the extent that it involves public sex
Sex with minors, and sex for cash.
The question is:
Am I comfortable marginalizing
Homelessness from the park?


He stands up
Bends his knees a little
Pulls the pant legs of his blue sweats
Up from his shoes a foot or so
Then nods with a See?
Expression. I don’t know
What I’m supposed to see.
The joke’s not for me.


They are watching out.
They are lookouts, sentries
Scoping for sales, drugs, bodies.
Or, they are tourists.
I miss one of their little girls.
This is an important park after all.


The dogwatchers are congregating
In triangular formation near the center
Thus, their dogs are also congregating.
Out from them, almost as spokes from the wheel
Other groups are congregating. It’s not so strange.


If you can’t remember the number of rotations
And you’re a target earner
With respect to revolutions
What kind of person are you?
Do you go one less
Because you might be done?
Or one more
Because you might not?


He is faster than me
Makes me feel like speeding up
Then the thought:
But I don’t know how many laps he’s done
How many he’ll do
How long he’s been training.

I don’t know much about his history.

Thus, with all measures
Of performance and accolade.
Some people will always do better.
They will work harder
Or have more innate talent (or fill in the blank).
If possible, praise those people.
They deserve it.

On the other hand, some people
Will receive more accolades than you
For doing the same as you.
These people can anger you.
Hopefully, they won’t shut you down.


Pigeons and starlings
Fight nastily
Over a poured bucket of crumbs.
What’s the story?
Why were they dumped here?
Perhaps a bakery donated
Its day-olds
Or its double-day-olds
To homeless people in the community
And after they ate what they could
They dumped the rest.
Thus, these birds could be pets
Pets that they are feeding
Or is it offensive to say
That pigeons could be pets
Or is it offensive to say
That homeless people couldn’t have pets?
That they couldn’t dedicate a little of their own food
To a member of a different species?


I thought they were landscapes
Pictured myself buying one
In what might be called a discourse.
It could have been a two person community.
But they were cars
His pen struck
The paper for
And I don’t really want cars on my wall.
How’s a community
Supposed to flourish
Under those conditions?


Sprinkler at 30 degree angle to the earth.
60 degrees and the sky promotes spray.


Pink stripped shirt
With dark glasses
Hung from the pocket
Indicates a changing demographic:
More and more professional
Regardless of race.


Serenity’s torn statue
Is marble leaves:
Shards quite undone.
Now a nose begins a curve
Like a shoulder
And it’s unclear
What kind of soldier
Might have
Deserved this.


I’m skeptical of that.
She says a people’s history.
How would they know what was going on?
We all can be misled.


Snippets of perception
Pointing to a later gesture:
Jehovah’s Witness’s bible laps
Proselytizing to a young-head
Lankily pushing headphones
Behind lobes. He was raised right
I hear them think
Politeness and something about what has been lost.


Five looped hills
Exclaim this is a moment in the city.

Temporally, the clash
Of forces
Means diversity;

An urban inversion
Taps gentrification’s shoulder
Pokes buildings abandoned
           Since the 1968 riots
In the ribs
Blows them down;
First clears their clutter.


The blue helmet of
Digging a hole for
Some sort of pipe.

At the bottom of which
Their furnace daily pours yerba mate

Into conversations of their past careers;
Their plans to regain.
They might not call it the old country

It might not be the same
As Springsteen’s Glory Days
But a certain nostalgia plucks

What floats
What keeps us afloat.


For the once-engaged Buchanan
The insult of his own homosexuality
Was softened by “the affection
Of a special friendship”
With longtime companion
William Rufus DeVane King
Who was referred to “Miss Nancy”
And “Aunt Fancy” by Andrew Jackson.



Francis Raven