Sonia Greenfield | Upon Misreading “Downed Statue of Robert E. Lee”

Upon Misreading “Downed Statue of Robert E. Lee” 
as “Drowned Statue of Robert E. Lee”

Like DeCaires Taylor’s sunken sculptures
gathering coral in their crenulated lips, marble

wearing the green velveteen of algae, yellow
tangs schooling around their bowed heads,

a few filtered rays of sun rippling across
their still forms, send him and his horse down

into the silt-cloud off the Atlantic. Collect
Stonewall, Old Joe, and General Morgan.

Gather the monuments and dump them
off a pier. Subsume them in the preserving salt

of our dark waters, so if you want to touch
this history bad enough, you can dive for it.

Anyway, historians note that sharks learned
to follow ships along the slave route because

they fed on the bodies thrown overboard.
Where are the many glorious statues erected

to the men and women tossed there? Carve
them from African wood and prop them

on shore to let our American sun warm
what used to be flesh, the heart of a tree.

At least, then, I could reach out a hand
and touch what my forefathers wrought.

Sonia Greenfield was born and raised in Peekskill, New York, and her book, Boy with a Halo at the Farmer’s Market, won the 2014 Codhill Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in a variety of places, including in 2010 Best American Poetry, The Antioch Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, Cimarron Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Rattle. She lives with her husband and son in Hollywood where she edits the Rise Up Review and co-directs the Southern California Poetry Festival.