In Syracuse, poets, scheduled to read their work within the Federal Building were turned away at the door, their permit denied in accordance with a nationwide orange alert.
To get inside, they would have to remove all loose change, and incendiary devices such as metaphor and irony and dissent from their pockets, and walk through the security gate.
"Don't fret," said the smiling man with the silver star,
"You can read your poems in the snow,
in Clinton Square."
In the public square a blast of foreign arctic air brought whiteout conditions to those who remained to speak, unafraid of whatever might fall out of the sky.
From inside, the guards watched with amusement, assembling security kits of opaque plastic and duct tape in case of biological attack.
Through the storm, A delegation of the Literacy Council was escorted through the security checkpoint. The first lady through was prepared to speak with her representative about the virtues of reading the classics, and to request great works of metered verse in which the form was what mattered, in which visions of home and land were made clever with little devices like rhyming "kettle" with "metal".
"Oh, for the days when poetry was free of political poses!
When was that?" the first lady wondered aloud.
Was it Whitman who crashed the tea party?
Keats was a drunkard,
or was it Yeats?
Surely it was sometime before
the beatniks' foul mouths and conga drums.
"Still, there are true gentle artists even now.
Jack Frost had the decency to just talk about snow,"
and a fence."
She and the representative agreed
that the Psalms were quite enough for them.
Below, forming a circle in the square,
the protesting poets had nothing to burn for warmth, but observed that the old worn flag had been taken from the public square to be replaced with fabric more fresh, without such a history of blowing in the wind.
In the basement of the Federal Building, as the old flag was incinerated, blue and white were transformed to an alarming yellow and orange. Even the red became darker, like blood full of air from excited lungs, then a final change to dark ash and invisible vapor, rising through the Federal Building to warm its workers from the winter outside.