Baltimore City Paper

Napoleonic Poem

It can happen that one night
you find yourself skiing through a pedestrian mall
in the middle of Paris
as snow falls on the glass roof
—a luminous parasol
above the Champs-Élysées.

And it can happen
that you wake up and find yourself
in Baltimore


and you'll remember
the five kids cut down this week
all within a few minutes of your street.

Two teens who fought
    then shot.
A high school sophomore pistol-whipped
    at a bus stop.
Three children of a man, mad at his ex—
        drowned in a bathtub
        one after the next
        at the Marriott
        of the Inner Harbor


—our shrine of progress
our flotilla of diversions-an armada of Sunday pleasures
where we grab a snack and plant a buck
in the outstretched hat
of the juggling clowns—the Peruvian musical duo
    El Condor Pasa echoes above choppy waves

toward the water taxi parades.
And we love
an urban place to walk
    with lots of urban shops
                        and lots of cops.

And the skyline amplifies the sad whispers of an ordinary night-
the sugary neon signs of EMPIRE. Empire...

and it's only missing one piece
        the Arch of Triumph

presiding over the Western end of Pratt.

On it we'll inscribe the names of the Generals and the Titans
who made it all possible

and beneath it we'll entomb the unknown soldier
from the Napoleonic wars
                         of Baltimore.

Kim Jensen ( is a Baltimore-based writer, poet, activist, and educator. Her books include a novel, "The Woman I Left Behind" and two collections of poems, "Bread Alone" and "The Only Thing that Matters".