The Debris Field

The figure standing and raising a sword
between Babylon and the return

to Jerusalem was St. Michael,
protector of Abraham’s people;

Justice; Michael, field commander
of the army of “the one true God.”


In 1909, New York City
commissioned Frederick MacMonnies,

one of America’s most prominent
sculptors, to design a fountain

for the entry park of City Hall.
A monumental statue

was to rise heroically from
the center of a great stone basin.

It was to be the grandest ever
sculpted by an American;

to be carved from the largest
single block of marble hewn

since the days of Michaelangelo.
Many were disappointed

when CIVIC VIRTUE victoriously
rising over corruption actually

emerged as a stocky, naked
man with a sword cocked

over one of his marble shoulders.
He appears to have extricated

himself from the archaic clutches
of two wily sirens. Granted

venereal disease is a historic
urban hygiene issue. In 1941,

the much maligned monument
––so carefully carved

by the Piccirilli Brothers
(Feirrucio, Attilio, Furio,

Orazio, Masanielo, and Getulio)
of the Bronx––was banished

to Kew Gardens, Queens.
Recently, there have been

heated arguments as to whether
or not the neglected

monument should be lifted
from its odd destiny of disrepair.

Scott Hightower is a poet living with one foot in New York City, one in Texas, and one in Madrid. His third collection, Part of the Bargain, received the 2004 Hayden Carruth Award. His translations from Spanish have garnered him a Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. He teaches at NYU, and has taught poetry, non-fiction, and translation at Drew, F.I.T., Fordham, and Poets House.