Goethe Memorial

The flowers at first I thought overabundant—

marigolds heartily edging the plat

like an infantry of Roman soldiers

hunkered down in turtle formation,

their bronze shields protecting

the center prize (that’s you, Teutonic

statue of Adonis) against an onslaught

of arrows; & at your base in bold letters

for all onlookers to see: Goethe,

Mastermind of the German People

& get this, of all possible dates—1913.


In Rome, I strolled by your grave, Goethe,

at the non-Catholic cemetery

down past the Coliseum

even further down past the Caracolla Baths

where I’m sure if you had looked anything

like this statue of Adonis,

you would most certainly have been popular.

Quite the glücksfall, it was, to find you

when I was only looking for Keats & Shelley.


Now, here at Diversey Harbor, you are praised

as a fleshy Aryan youth, all Byron spit curls,

totally naked except for a cloak

clinging to your buttocks

discretely covering your schwanz in the front,

which, by the way, is as sexless as G.I. Joe’s.

But it is your chest that truly impresses,

sculpted as a warrior’s breastplate,

& down on your meaty thigh

angled out to best display muscle-mass,

a German eagle perches like the family pet.


I look back inside your border

of flowers and finally see the silvery lamb’s ear,

the blue-flowered salvia

& feathery cockscomb flaming like fireworks;

but borders deceive as yours does—the outer edge

is really nothing more than yellow daisies—so many

common daisies like the ones sprouting wild

along highways, and all yours encroach

on the middle flowers

as if to boot the other blooms out.

1 Comment on "Goethe Memorial"

  1. I love the metaphorical journeys here from Rome to Chicago, the theme of conquering and protection, and the multiple boundaries of things: from flower border, to cemetery plot, to Roman baths, to sculpted chest muscles.

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