Deborah Rocheleau is an English major, Chinese minor, and all-around language fanatic. Her writing has been published by Tin House, 100 Word Story, Flights, and Thema, among others. She is currently writing her third contemporary young adult novel.
Waiting for the elevator to the Washington Monument
our tour guide informed us the structure is free-standing
No mortar holds all those marble blocks in place
but their weight alone anchors them to the Earth.
No nails were used
an architectural trait it shares with the Japanese pagoda
made not with stones like their Chinese equivalents,
but wood, paper, earthen tiles
and a heavy central mast, the shinbashira
that keeps the building upright through an earthquake
weathering a natural disaster
better than the Washington Monument.
The day after our trip up the Monument,
an earthquake rattled the Capitol
sending a crack down through the free-standing stones of the obelisk
like the mark from a bolt of lightning when it kisses the top
of a stripped, branchless, cypress tree.
Although pagodas withstand the earthquakes
inevitable in Japan
random lightning strikes
are claiming them
at a time.