Built Temple to Our Better Selves
It’s a place that holds the heart of a nation:
Ideals, intention, values, and exalted self-image.
Great, grassy lawns roll out from grand
Memorials like the one to Lincoln who stares ahead,
Modest as he is misunderstood. He did
Not take an egalitarian stand in freeing
The slaves but took away the rebels’ wealth
To ensure our country remained one nation; still
He is celebrated for loftier intentions,
More expansive humanitarian
Purpose than he himself actually had.
Perhaps all the rest lionized here similarly
Did not reach the idealized view of them
We have now. We honor our loftier imagination
As it invites us to fill these exalted ideals,
To love them, and make them live in cities
And small towns so Washington becomes
The built temple to our better selves.
Martin Luther King told us his dream
And, after President John F Kennedy was shot,
I stood with the city’s people to watch his funeral
Procession go by. Johnson was already
President. I marched in front of the White House
In support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Those were the years I lived in Washington,
Its character colored by ‘60’s politics.
I know that every president’s term of office
Brings events and people that color the air
Differently. George W. Bush’s DC
Would feel unique, and Number 45’s even more.
So this built temple to our better selves
Is colored by the years each president serves.
Museums and historic buildings, monuments
And grassy lawns, traffic driving in circles
Remain to remind us it’s the people’s place.
“Built Temple to Our Better Selves” was published originally in Written Tales, a Medium publication that closed.
Aikya Param is a minister who writes articles and poems. She attended college in Washington DC, a great place to study anything. For more by Aikya, click here.