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  • Alex Hardwell

Leaders and Best


What was once a social hub,

Is now desolate,

This place once teaming with life,

Sits empty today

What was once a political stage,

Is now distant

The echoes of Bernie still linger on

Upon but one's ears

One day, a rally before a war,

The next, a memory

As quiet as the woods,

Once public,

Became one’s solitude,

This open space in its past life

Lived as the heart

But in its death is born again,

Don’t let its vastness deceive you,

Its corpse like a shell

As private as a home

This poem is about the Michigan Diag that we all know and love. Merely days before the state declared a state of emergency, Senator Bernie Sanders held a political rally right on the diag. I attended the rally, but like everyone else, the approaching danger of the COVID-19 virus was the last thing on my mind. And just like that, everything changed. As the school transitioned to online classes for the safety of public health, all of the students began moving back home. However, I stayed, and continue to stay on campus. Ann Arbor is usually a ghost town during the summer, but I’ve never seen it this empty and quiet.

My inspiration for this poem was a time in which I recently visited the diag late at night. Of course, no one was there, but I couldn’t help but notice how secluded it seemed, as the last time I was there was during the Bernie rally. In regards to our readings, my inspiration for this was Su Shi’s “Meditation on the Past at Red Cliff” poem. In it, he acknowledged the historical weight of the location, and here I wanted to paint distinct before and after imagery, akin to a long gone battlefield.


Moons go, suns set

Leaves fall, snow melt

The doors of the mind creak open

A flame’s trial,

To be burn out in seclusion, as many before it

Or waver on, brighter than before

Those candles’ scent, Burn unsmelt

As wax melts, its ember tested

Short to most, unending to one,

the passage of time subjective

Like the night stars’ beauty

Until the crisp morning dew,

Marks night’s end

This poem is my analysis of one’s transition through college. I wanted to paint the trials and tribulations in an abstract way. For it, I looked at Li He’s “Song of an Arrowhead from the Battlefield of Chang-ping” as inspiration. That poem was abstract in a sense where he used various objects and the environment to represent an old battlefield.*Spoilers* It begins with the change of seasons to represent time passing, and transitions into doors opening, as college does very well. The flame is supposed to be the spirit of a student, and the scent of the candle is the personality and uniqueness of a student. Additionally, the wax is essentially lifespan. It ends on the subject of time, in which most people may say “my college years flew by”, but I offer a contrary to that saying. *Spoilers*

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Brant Verlinde
Apr 11, 2020

Hi Alex, I think your likening of the Bernie Sanders rally to a battlefield was a really clever way to incorporate a callback to the original poems, while still keeping it relevant to our modern society. I really liked Diag because it evoked strong feelings that I have experienced myself. Seeing the Diag as a solitary place to walk is such a different feeling that I think was very unique to write about, and made your piece incredibly captivating.


Apr 10, 2020

I very much enjoyed the suggestion that the impending COVID-19 epidemic was similar to war; I think it accurately describes the tone of our nation's response/collective mobilization. Further, I think you did a great job capturing the eerie feeling that resonates with many of us as we walk observe the emptiness of large, public spaces that are usually teeming with people. It feels, as you described, almost "as private as a home," a phenomenal image that I can definitely relate to. Good work!


Apr 10, 2020

The first poem really got me, especially with the Bernie rally being likened to this ancient battlefield, even though that was only a mere few weeks ago in our time. The sound descriptors you use throughout Diag really sell the scene that's being shown to us in the poem. Deeply enjoyed it!


Eddie Zhang
Apr 10, 2020

Hello Alex. I love your first poem so much. It is organized and beautifully written. I like how you connect your poem to Su Shi's poem we read this week. My favorite parts of your first poem are the third and last paragraphs, for I feel they are so poetic. Your poem gives me images as if I can see what you saw. I see how crowded and lively it once was, and see how quiet now in the night. The second poem gives me the same feeling. I can almost feel that night you described. I really enjoy your poems as well as the nice photo.


Arabelle Konrad
Arabelle Konrad
Apr 09, 2020

I love the connection between the Bernie Sanders rally being similar to a rally before a war, it just gives me a really strong image in my mind. I love that you used sound descriptors, like "echo," because I think they really added to the mood of your first poem. In general, Diag gives me really strong feelings, images, and sounds, so it's a really nice read. Awesome job writing these!

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