Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“In Praise Of Cities” A poem by Thom Gunn

Indifferent to the indifference that conceived her,
Grown buxom in disorder now, she accepts
- Like dirt, strangers, or moss upon her churches -
Your tribute to the wharf of circumstance,
Rejected sidestreet, formal monument…
And, irresistible, the thoroughfare.

You welcome in her what remains of you;
And what is strange and what is incomplete
Compels a passion without understanding,
For all you cannot be.

                            Only at dawn
You might escape, she sleeps then for an hour:
Watch where she hardly breathes, spread out and cool,
Her pavements desolate in the dim dry air.

You stay. Yet she is occupied, apart.
Out of a mist the river turns to see
Whether you follow still. You stay. At evening
Your blood gains pace even as her blood does.

Casual yet urgent in her love making,
She constantly asserts her independence:
Suddenly turning moist pale walls upon you
- Your own designs, peeling and unachieved -
Or her whole darkness hunching in an alley.
And all at once you enter the embrace
Withheld by day while you solicited.
She wanders lewdly, whispering her given name,
Charing Cross Road, or Forty Second Street:
The longest streets, desire that never ends,
Familiar and inexplicable, wearing
Cosmetic light a fool could penetrate.
She presses you with her hard ornaments,
Arcades, late movie shows, the piled lit windows
Of surplus stores. Here she is loveliest;
Extreme, material, the work of man.

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