Charlottesville Burning

Charlottesville Elegy

There’s a single eye that hovers
Above this city, hovers
By day and by night.

You might assume
It’s the sun or the moon,
But I’ve lived here
Forty years
And never seen it before.

It’s not the bitter eye
Of racism that haunts
Alleys and grocery aisles;
Nor the icy eye of privilege—
I’ve seen that many times,
Above the university
Or gazing down
On Farmington’s lawns,
Smoother than golf greens.

It isn’t the Internet’s eye,
That can’t sleep
For the fever-dreams
It breeds.
                   Not the secret eye
Of the pine’s cut stump;
Nor the eye of the poor
That has seen it all.

It’s not the black eye
Of notoriety,
Nor the blue one of denial.

It’s not the state’s blank eye,
Made of papier-mâché,
Nor the eye of the police
That was looking the other way.

It’s not the eye of violence
That would strike
Lightning if it could,
Nor the eye of love
That sees, but doesn’t judge.

Neither is it Jefferson’s eye,
Inert in bronze repose;
Nor that of Sally Hemings,
Startled even in eternity.
(It’s certainly not
God’s eye—
That turned away eons ago.)

It’s not the eye of witness,
That winced;
Nor the eye of grief
That wept briefly, then
Resumed its journey
This grim world.

Undeceived, unassuageable eye,
It’s there for our whole
City to see
                        It’s come
To remind us of a proverb
Old as the pyramids:

Once you’ve closed one eye to evil,
You’d better not blink.

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