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The Battle for Leverett Road

Poetry & Prose | October 29, 2012

Down the street
lived a man. Divorced, a musician,
a former friend of my father.

One fall he built a sign in front of his house.
A huge white board with 4 nails in it,
each nail holding a small square with a number painted on it
in crisp strokes of black paint.
In stern block letters the sign was titled
“American casualties in the Iraq War”
and he would swap the numbers
to reflect the growing toll.

Standing starkly bright against the drab scenery
of his brown house, brown lawn,
it captured the eyes of passers-by.
With ruthless determination
the number rose into the thousands.
One day at a time,
one life at a time.

Now, back then,
when I was a teenager
I wanted to understand anarchy,
rebellion, dissent, anger,
but I couldn’t.
I would drive past the sign
and gaze with awe,
forcefully believing in its
political discourse;
its air of significance.

Then I got older
as people tend to do.
I moved out
as people tend to do.
I went to college
as some people do.

At first I would return home
to the brown homes and brown lawns,
and stare at the sign as I passed.
But the stare became a glance.
Then a thought.
Then nothing.

Then today
I came back to the brown lawns
and drove by the bold, determined sign.
I stared again.
The structure was the same
but the title was gone.
Four new squares hung from the nails,
each with one letter
painted in black
spelling out the word
“clap.”
And I stared as I drove by and wondered if I should.