CLARA BENSEN
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DISTRICT CAPITAL

it was the first thing I noticed:

the sirens are more panicked here

more piercing and important

like someone who must conceal

the secret thrill of bearing very-bad-news

with a serious tone that does not quite hide

the brightness in the eyes

   squad cars tear down the street wailing

   beware, beware! to those who seem to be

   safely enclosed in cement walls and plaster boxes

       and everyone shifts a little

       thinking, did I lock the door?

besides the sirens, there is the German shepherd

with the face mask

pacing the length of the marble floored lobby

and I feel wary and stiff

on the edge of my tastefully upholstered settee

coated with the same, tenuous veneer of officiality

as the carpet

and the concierge suits

and the flat screen(s) in my suite

   a word about the screens:

   they’re on every wall, as common as light switches

   ensuring the indignation of the tangerine newscasters

   (gnashing with their rows of white-washed teeth)

   is never more than a few steps away

       and they echo the same refrain as the sirens

       beware, beware