To Burn the Autocrat in Effigy

Christian Teresi | Poetry

The garden where his soldiers hanged an old woman
Again smells of petrichor and tomato vines.

His daybook was written by thin-necked deputies.
It will be used as evidence against him.

His name is no longer a punchline spoken secretly.
The branch that held the noose now holds a swing.

No teacher has been burned alive for believing
The earth revolves around the sun for a very long time.

The bomb-shattered windows that littered the schoolyard
Have been replaced. Children again play pretend

Soldiers on the rebuilt playground. They know a young woman
Was found in the house behind the school. They know her name

Was Anna. She was found shot in the head in the potato cellar.
The school is the same one she once attended. Her photo

In the potato cellar wearing nothing but a frayed fur coat
Is used as evidence against him. It wins a prestigious prize

For photography. The school’s bomb shelter is now storage
For textbooks. There was a time when books were scarce

And few could read. Children pass the bomb shelter entrance
And do not know what its sign means. The word human

Comes from the Latin, humus, meaning black earth.
An old hunting dog dreams it can still catch grouse mid-air.

Generations of crows have lived without tasting human flesh.
Beneath the sickle-shaped moon the earth still revolves

Around the sun. Builders approach the ruins counting
Salvable bricks. The ballerinas never stopped rehearsing.