On Liberalism
G.C. Waldrep

You’re supposed to be watching a documentary

about the riots.  Somehow, you’ve been left

here, in this cold classroom, alone, with a video monitor.

People you don’t know keep walking into

and out of the room, but nobody else stays.


You turn on the monitor.  You see

the image of a small girl, dressed up, as if

for a party.  She’s walking away from the camera

through what might be a fallow field,

or maybe a vacant city lot.  The frame of the image

doesn’t allow for much, in terms of context.


This seems to go on for a long time.

The figure of the girl recedes into some vague distance.

You wonder what this has to do with the riots.


When the image of the girl has finally disappeared

into indistinguishable pixels, she’s replaced

by a series of talking heads:  a politician,

a clergyman  in vestments,

what looks like an African American

college professor, then a young white man in jeans

cradling a lamb in his arms.

They all seem to be speaking passionately

about something, only there’s no sound.


After awhile the talking heads give way

to scenes from a construction site:  lots of reinforced

concrete and steel, heavy cranes, ant-sized men

shouting things you can’t quite make out

because even though the sound now seems to be back on,

the voices are drowned out by the machinery.


It’s getting late.  You’re still wondering

what this all has to do with the riots, what it was

you were supposed to be learning, why there’s oil

on your shirt and the backs of your hands.