Poems by Theme


by Kim Roberts

The Lincoln sinks into the Potomac
with a sigh. Constitution Avenue,
weary of constraint, reverts to canal,
complete with stink and Spring floods.

Swamp reclaims the grounds
of the Washington Monument, and river
reclaims the rest, filling with masts
that glided in from the Chesapeake Bay.

All the mere human efforts
of the Army Corps of Engineers
have come to naught. The Kennedy Center’s
massive bunker, like a Soviet tank, slides

under the gurgling mud and the bridges dissolve,
their long lines of cars a dim specter.
Across the wide dirt roads downtown
Walt Whitman strides in his boots,

kicking up clouds of dust that eddy in his wake
—until he, too, wavers and melts
amid white columned buildings,
the classical ruins of grand intent.

作者:吉姆 罗伯特



一座巨大的碉堡, 又像是一辆苏俄的坦克

硕长的车阵, 连接成精瘦的魅影。

-Translated by Karl K. Zhang, George Mason University


von Kim Roberts

Lincoln versinkt im Potomac
aufseufzend. Constitution Avenue
der Zurückhaltung müde, wird wieder Kanal
samt Gestank und Frühjahrsüberschwemmungen.

Sumpf holt sich wieder
den Washington Monument-Park, und Fluss
holt sich wieder den Rest, füllt sich mit Masten
hereingeglitten aus der Chesapeake Bay.

All das bloß menschliche Bemühn
des Army Corps of Engineers
wurde zunichte. Des Kennedy Centers
Massivbunker, wie ein Sowjetpanzer, rutscht

unter den glucksenden Schlamm und die Brücken zerfließen,
ihre langen Autoschlangen ein blasses Gespenst.
Über die breiten schlimmen Straßen der Innenstadt
schreitet Walt Whitman in Stiefeln,

aufwirbelnd Staubwolken in Wellen hinter sich her
– bis auch er schwankt und zerschmilzt
inmitten weißer Säulenhallen,
der klassischen Ruinen großartiger Pläne.
-Übersetzt von Irmgard Wagner

About the Poet: Kim Roberts (b. 1961)
Kim Roberts is the editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and has published two books of poems and several plays. Her poems have also appeared in literary journals throughout the US, as well as in Canada, Europe, and South America.

About the Poem: Swamp
Gazing on ruins and contemplating the glories of their past has been a familiar poetic strategy (take Shelley’s Ozymandius, for example). Poets less often view a thriving city and go on to imagine how its glory might decline and fall. But here, Kim Roberts does exactly that - evoking surreal images of Washington’s dying moments. Whether or not her images prove accurate predictions is irrelevant. What matters is that thinking about how an era might end reminds us that institutions - just like human minds and bodies -  are neither immortal nor infallible. Temporarily we occupy a spot in space and time; but we were not the first ones here, nor in all likelihood will we be the last.