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Government Center

All of the old buildings that surround it
with their embellishments,
their frills, their flauntings,
have turned away, embarrassed
by how nakedly
       outside is here.
At night especially,
nothing is not exposed
to whatever it is
that's looking out
from within the rising of the set back
or jutting, many angled
brick and concrete large
to small to smaller openings
that swallow
whatever light they cast.
At Washington and State,
the wide brick stairs lead up to wide brick stairs
up to the bricked
expanse, the brick field of the benchless plaza
edged here and there by lampposts whose light
spotlights the little public trees
that tremble leafless
and raw in stone tubs
for everyone
who isn't there
to see.

If you were there, walking,
you wouldn't be able to tell
the sound of other footsteps
coming toward you
were your own.
You'd have to hurry not to feel
the feeling of what it is
you're being told
about the feeling of being
looked at, looked through, tracked
by every brick
and concrete
angle of the opaque
openings you can't look up at
as you hurry past.

By Alan Shapiro