Jacqueline Jules

Featured in ArLiJo Issue No. 28

Tidal Basin Stroll (April 2003)

A woman from Wisconsin
washed her hands beside me
in the FDR Memorial bathroom,
oozing delight to be in Washington
"just at this time."
I told her I came every year
when the local news tells the natives
Potomac Park has peaked.
We smiled, without exchanging names,
and pushed the heavy iron door back
to the fragile white clusters cuddling in the wind.
A pilgrimage for me since the sixties, when my father
drove the family a hundred miles
to walk the Tidal Basin concrete and
celebrate spring beside thousands of war protestors.
Thirteen that year, I found a pair of college students
kissing beneath a green blanket
as appealing as the cherry blossoms —
much as a group of teenagers at the water's edge today,
gawking at a large gray fish floating belly-up.
It seems almost appropriate, considering the headlines,
that the strongest smell here is dead fish.
A siren bellows in the distance and I worry
over soldiers in Baghdad who may never
see these pink blossoms, pride of their nation's capitol,
symbol of friendship between two nations
who loved and fought and loved again.
Low pulpit signs tell the story of Tokyo's gift in 1912
and the festival celebrated yearly (except during World War II).
As I read the tale, I wonder
if one day the Iraqis
will emulate the gracious Japanese,
who call us friend after Hiroshima.

Tidal Basin Stroll (April 2003) was included on the audio CD 31 Arlington Poets, produced by Paycock Press, 2004.
Copyright © 2009 by Jacqueline Jules.

September 12th (Arlington, VA)

Muscled men with sun-drenched skin
were out the next morning at 9 a.m.
fighting weeds with gas-powered blades.
After hours of watching the smoking rubble
of collapsed buildings on my TV screen,
it was a comfort to sit at a stoplight
and watch men sweat
over bushes and green grass
in the bright September sun—a comfort
to see others resuming jobs as if
the lives we led on Monday still mattered.
Yesterday's siege of smoke and sirens
had not touched this tree-lined street
too far from the Pentagon to smell the flames.
I drove on familiar roads,
flanked by buildings and sidewalks
unchanged by the dark voice on the radio
reporting the dead and missing.
Except for light traffic, the streets
appeared to lead back to
Monday's office aggravation
over a broken copier and
missing toilet paper in the ladies—
not stories of spouses who saw the plane hit
and children who felt the rumble in their classrooms.
I drove on, recalling the wide blue eyes
of the woman on the lobby couch,
silent tears inching down her cheeks
while the dark voice on the radio
reported smoke at the Pentagon,
swallowing the world
we knew before.

Copyright © 2009 by Jacqueline Jules.

Jacqueline Jules is a poet, librarian, and children's author. Her poems have appeared in Poetic Voices Without Borders, Christian Science Monitor, America, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Sunstone, Potomac Review, and The Mid-America Poetry Review, among others. She won the Arlington Arts Moving Words Poetry Competition in 1999 and 2007, Best Original Poetry from the Catholic Press Association in 2008, and the SCBWI Magazine Merit Plaque for Poetry in 2009.