Of Statues and Limitations
As we round Lee’s Circle in New Orleans
talk turns to statues
and the topless monument;
the shuttle bus driver tells us
that Robert E. Lee’s statue was removed
under the cover of darkness
by a crew dressed like ninjas,
to avoid recognition.
People woke up the next day
to find the statue had disappeared.
A photograph on Wikipedia
shows the statue being removed
in broad daylight by a crane;
reality is nearly always more prosaic.
She also tells us that she grew up in the neighbourhood;
as kids, they just called the monument,
“The Statue”, they did not know or care
who Robert E. Lee was.
In 1966, the IRA blew the statue of Horatio Nelson
off its pedestal on top of Nelson’s Pillar
in the middle of O’Connell Street, Dublin.
To my parents’ generation
Nelson’s Pillar was known simply as “The Pillar”.
(Dubliners are very fond of the definite article:
“How’s the head?”
“Are you still playing the soccer?”)
To them, The Pillar was a landmark
a place to meet your date
en route to one of the cinemas
on O’Connell Street to catch a film (2 syllables)
and perhaps a humid snog
in the back seat when the lights went out.
To the IRA it was a symbol of British Imperialism
of British oppression,
an insult to our patriot dead;
blah, blah, blah, boom!
The IRA was a particularly unsubtle organisation.
Is all this just facile juxtaposition,
chopped up prose
masquerading as a poem,
or is there a point?
Yes, yes and yes:
see what I think is
there are people who look up at statues
there are people who believe
statues are looking down on them
and there are people
who look straight ahead
and keep moving forward
into the future,
leaving the past
to its state of disrepair.
Top photo taken at the Takashi Murakami exhibition (The octopus eats its own leg) at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Bottom Photo taken in Medellin, Colombia, statues by Fernando Botero.