Dreaming of our golden boulevards and temples
our painted palaces set in torchlit gardens,
our spires and minarets, our emerald harbor,
you won't want to hear about the city we knew:
the narrow neighborhoods of low white houses
where workmen come home for lunch and an afternoon nap,
old women in sweat-stained penitential black
ease their backaches gratefully against doorways
and the widow who keeps the corner grocery
anxiously watches her child dragging his toy
who was sickly from birth and everyone knows must die soon.
You won't want to know how we lived,
the hot sun, the horse traders cheating each other out of boredom,
in the brothels the prostitutes curling each other's hair
while the madam limps upstairs to feed the canary,
the young louts smoking in bare cafés
where old men play dominoes for glasses of cognac—
and how can we blame you?
We too were in love with something we never could name.
We never could let ourselves say
that the way the harbor flashes like bronze at sunset
or the hill towns swam in the twilight like green stars
were only tricks of the light and meant nothing.
We too believed that a moment would surely come
when our lives would stand hard and pure, like marble statues.
And because we were, after all, only a poor city,
a city like others, of sailors' bars and sunflowers,
we gave ourselves up to be only a name,
an image of temples and spires and jeweled gardens—
for which reasons we are envied of all peoples,
and even now could not say
what life would have to be, for us to have chosen it.
Posted at July 31, 2009 23:59 | permanent link