What is it about statues

and monuments, especially those erected

by leaders with a somehow smaller than normal
sense of self worth, that they must compensate

for what they couldn’t sustain in their tenure
—the love of the people, undoctored praise

in history books, acknowledgment without
coercion of the great, magnanimous vision

that allegedly brought their nations forward,
out of the pitiful darkness of the past

before they came along? Before its destruction
two winters ago, Mao’s gold-brushed statue,

36 meters high, sat on the desolate bit of farm
country hardest hit by the great famines of the ’50s

and ’60s. And what of the thousands of stone
or marble likenesses of Stalin and Lenin

that used to dominate parks and squares all
over the former Soviet empire, periodically

toppled by angry citizens and revolutionaries?
Like the one pulled down in Budapest in ’56:

after the fall of Communism, over two hundred
thousand workers dismantled Lenin’s bronze

statue, leaving only his boots, in which
they planted their flag. His stone head

rolled upon the boulevard, where it was marked
with insults. Along a windy stretch of highway

in Tuba, Benguet, a 98 foot bust of the late
Ferdinand Marcos was built. The Ibaloi who were

displaced from their homes and land smeared
the blood of sacrificial animals on the dictator’s

stony visage. Who knows if these are connected?
but in 1989, rebels blew open his sculpted face.

In 2002, treasure hunters chipped away at what
was left, and birds flew in and out of the hollows

that once were cheeks. This weekend on the news,
people pulled down the Confederate Soldier’s

Monument in Durham then surrounded it, some
spitting and cursing as if it were alive—

and in a way it’s true: so lifelike, carved stones
entomb almost mystically whatever part of our

human nature we’ve relegated. Cult objects,
they bristle in the glow of headlights;

they glimmer darkly in the sun, holding flags
that should have been rent to pieces years ago.

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