Poem: A Stranger’s City

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A Stranger’s City

It has been a year since you visited the city.
walked its streets with its crowds of infinite variety,
an anonymous soul elbow to elbow with strangers,
Faces and fashion and more than that, an energy
so unlike your sanctuary in far away Vermont.

You need this, every so often. It feeds you,
a reminder of the power of mass and masses,
your mind awash with the vast mix of America
all gathered in one place, dreams, and nightmares
and side hustles, a place of promise and fear,
everyone going somewhere, doing, reaching,
faces animated. There is purpose here, urgency,

a reminder

of what you fled, and why you come back,
grateful for your place of peace, but aware
that too much peace and you fall into rot,
that yours is a life barely in balance, a needful life,
needful less of things than places, experiences,
the soul of places and people unlike yourself.
like salt in the stew, it flavors you, always in danger
of too much or too little.

Here is the Hassidic Jew in his worn black coat and hat.
Here is the Puerto Rican girl, bright and loud.
Here are the suits,
the old Italian woman pulling her cart of groceries,
the tourists, the hustlers and homeless,
the old Russian men playing chess in the park,
The Arabs gathered for their thick black coffee,
Here are the hayseeds and vagabonds like me,
passing through, thieves of energy that no one misses.
There is more than enough to go around.

Here are carts of food and Gucci knock offs.
Of diners just outside theatres. Hotels
for the rich and poor sit side by side.
Crowds outside Penn Station, steady streams
rise and fall in and out of subway stations.
Water towers and gardens on the roofs.
Carts of clothes on racks roll by you as you walk.
Here are all the things you are not,
somehow becoming you. You should be lost here
but you never are, It feels like home. Not a place of peace,
but a place of constant becoming.
You smile when you are there, even if you leave exhausted.

It is your pilgrimage, Once, twice a year,
But not this year.
TH=he city has grown dark and dangerous.
Time Square is still full of billboards and video screens
and hardly a soul to see them.
We are warned away in this plague year,
the power of the place gone inside, waiting out death,
and you mourn the lost,
and you wonder,
when you can return, and how, and what will be left
for strangers like me.

About this poem

I love New York City, and watching what they have gone through and are still going through, has been heartbreaking,

The picture was taken just outside Penn Station,

Tom

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