Wednesday, April 30, 2014

NPM: Dirty limericks

Happy Poetry Month, everybody. I'm just going to leave these here and walk away now.

From The Wordsworth Book of Limericks
(edited by Linda Marsh)

The limerick's callous and crude,
Its morals distressingly lewd;
 It's not worth the reading
 By persons of breeding——
It's designed for us vulgar and rude.

*          *          * 
A curious artist, Picasso:
His voice was remarkably basso,
 His balls were both cubic,
 His hair was all pubic.
Some thought him a bit of an arsehole.

*          *          *

A certain young man I'm not namin'
Asked an actress he thought was tamin'
 'Have you your maidenhead?'
 'Don't be silly!' she said,
'But I still have the box that it came in.'

*          *          *

Said an innocent girlie named Shelley
As her man rolled her on to her belly:
 'This is not the position
 For human coition
And why the petroleum jelly?'

*          *          * 

'Adultery,' said Joseph, 'is nice;
If once is all right——better twice.
 This doubling of rations
 Improves my sensations,
For the plural of "spouse," friend, is "spice".'

*          *          *

A milkmaid there was, with a stutter,
Who was lonely and wanted a futter.
 She had nowhere to turn,
 So she diddled a churn,
And managed to come with the butter.

*          *          * 

There once was a sensitive bride

Who ran when the groom she espied.
 When she looked at his swiver,
 They had to revive her,
But when he got it well in, she just sighed.

*          *          *

In the Garden of Eden lay Adam
Complacently stroking his madam,
 And great was his mirth,
 For he knew that on earth
There were only two balls——and he had 'em.

*          *          *

Pubic hair is put there for a reason
That is evident in the cold season:
 For the balls it's a muff,
 For the rod it's a ruff;
And it keeps the vagina from freezin'.

*          *          * 

There was a young fellow named Bliss
Whose sex life was strangely amiss.
 For even with Venus
 His recalcitrant penis
Would seldom do better than t

*          *          *

An ignorant maiden named Rewdid
Did something amazingly stupid:
 When her lover had spent
 She douched with cement
And gave birth to a statue of Cupid.

*          *          *

Said the bishop one day to the abbott,
Whose instincts were just like a rabbit:
 'I know it's great fun
 To embrace a young nun——
But you mustn't get into the habit.'

*          *          * 

A candid young lady named Tudor
Remarked to the chap who'd just screwed her,
 'After dildoes, dilators,
 And electric vibrators,
The real thing feels like an intruder.'

*          *          * 

A dolly in Dallas named Alice,
Whose overworked cunt is all callous,
 Wore the foreskin away
 of uncircumcised Ray,
Through exuberance, tightness and malice.

*          *          * 
A right-handed writer named Wright
In writing 'write' always wrote 'rite',
 When he meant to write 'write'.
 If he'd written 'write' right,
Wright would not have wrought rot writing 'write'.

Said a boy to his teacher one day,
'Wright has not written 'rite' right, I say.'
 And the teacher replied,
 As the error she eyed,
'Right! Wright: write "rite" right, right away!'

*          *          *

A decrepit old gasman named Peter,
While hunting around his gas heater,
 Touched a leak with his light.
 He rose out of sight——
And, as anyone who knows anything about
 poetry can tell you, he also ruined the meter.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NPM: End of the line

Ansel Adams

It's April 29, which means National Poetry Month 2014 is about winding down, and this is the penultimate NPM post. Thanks for coming along; it's been fun as usual, and it was refreshing to have my nose in so many poetry books throughout the month. But I'm thinking this might be the last year I do this.

There's a pretty good chance I'll still observe NPM in one way or another. Maybe I'll post just a few carefully selected poems, but really put them under the microscope. Maybe I'll post some of my own poetry (it could happen). But in any case, I think it may be best that I quit the "choose and post a poem (or two, or three) every day for a month" game while it's still enjoyable, and before it becomes a chore.

Anyway: three poems about the end.

When You Are Old
William Butler Years (1865 – 1939)

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Leçons de Ténèbres
Clive James (1939 – )

But are they lessons, all these things I learn
Through being so far gone in my decline?
The wages of experience I earn
Would service well a younger life than mine.
I should have been more kind. It is my fate
To find this out, but find it out too late.

The mirror holds the ruins of my face
Roughly together, thus reminding me
I should have played it straight in every case,
Not just when forced to. Far too casually
I broke faith when it suited me, and here
I am alone, and now the end is near.

All my life I put my labour first.
I made my mark, but left no time between
The things achieved, so, at my heedless worst,
With no life, there was nothing I could mean.
But now I have slowed down. I breathe the air
As if there were not much more of it there

And write these poems, which are funeral songs
That have been taught to me by vanished time:
Not only to enumerate my wrongs
But to pay homage to the late sublime
That comes with seeing how the years have brought
A fitting end, if not the one I sought.

Becoming a Book
Howard Schwartz (1945 – )

        "When writers die they become books, which is, after
         all, not too bad an incarnation."
                                           ——Jorge Luis Borges

                                     for Ben Furnish

All these years,
without knowing it,
I've been preparing for my rebirth
as a book.

Each day
I try to condense
light and darkness
into one more page.

At night
I count the pages left
before it's time
to come back.

Now that my destiny is known,
we need not say goodbye.
I'll be there guarding you
from a shelf.

Monday, April 28, 2014

NPM: A long prelude to a short poem

Open Source Ecology

Or: why I love Garrison Keillor's Good Poems series.

I think the metric by which a poetry anthology should be judged can more or less be boiled down to how well it serves as a bathroom read. Or as a coffee table book. I don't use the term to refer to an oversize tome with impressive pictures, but as a book that's kept on the coffee table, or at any spot where people tend to come and sit down, and that easily be seen, reached for, and idly flipped through for a few minutes.

The poems in a good anthology should be relatively short; short enough that you can pass the book to the person sitting next to you and point out something for them to read without them feeling put upon. Good poetry deserves to be shared. A good anthology selects its contents such that it is conducive to sharing.

Long poems are best left to the single-author volumes and the academic books. Wordsworth's "Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" is a fine poem, but it takes a while to work through. It's best read on a hammock or during a long bus ride. It's a poem that most of us wouldn't read unless we put aside twenty minutes for the sole purpose of reading it. It isn't a poem you would pass to the person sitting next to you on the couch and say "hey, take a look at this." The good poetry anthology would do well to exclude Wordsworth's masterpiece.

The good poetry anthology contains the shorter poems that will entice the reader to explore Wordsworth and eventually arrive at Tintern Abbey.

In a very good anthology, the poems are arranged in terms of subject and theme. Not by forms, not by periods, not by "movements," nor by any other academic categorization. The poems are arranged in terms of what they communicate.

A good poetry collection isn't necessarily immersive. You can read a page or two, momentarily commune with the poets' art, and then put the book down and continue about your day with a measure of spiritual refreshment. If the poems are really good, you don't need to read more than one. A two-minute read can be carried around for a few hours and chewed on like a stem of grass.

Obviously the selected poems should be excellent: the reader must count on being able to find something ruminative, moving, provocative, and/or delightful on almost every page. They mustn't be too esoteric: again, leave the obscure stuff for the academics, the specialists, and the connoisseurs—the people who are out looking for that sort of thing. The good poetry anthology should be for people who aren't necessarily looking for anything, but will be glad at what they find. The great poetry anthology be filled with unfamiliar names; thousands of living people are writing poetry, and they're writing good poetry that readers will enjoy. Though the familiar poets won't be excluded, the anthology will often represent them with pieces that rarely appear in the textbooks teaching the canon, and that even the English majors and habitual readers may have missed.

Case in point: this Dickinson poem I recently happened upon in Good Poems, American Places as a friend and I were sitting around and passing the book back and forth:

To Make a Prairie
Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few. - See more at:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few. - See more at:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few. - See more at:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

NPM: The Sparrow's Lesson

House Sparrow (from All About Birds)

This one is for the dozens of ingenuous little fellows hopping around on the sidewalk and yeeping in the trees outside my window this Sunday evening.

The Sparrow in the Zoo
Howard Nemerov (1920 – 1991)

No bars are set too close, no mesh too fine
To keep me from the eagle and the lion,
Whom keepers feed that I may freely dine.
This goes to show that if you have the wit
To be small, common, cute and live on shit,
Though the cage fret kings, you may make free with it.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

NPM: Some 21st Century Chinese Poetry

Liu Maoshan

Not too long after reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms, I spent a few hours of a few evenings browsing a website called (the web presence of the lit journal 21st Century Chinese Poetry). There's some cool stuff to be found on there, but reading it can be disheartening at times. It's a reminder of the indispensable value and the inadequacy of translation—and of how more gets lost in the translation of poetry than prose. Reading these poems as a (monolingual) English-speaking American is like peering through a keyhole. You're grateful for the glimpse into another world, but wonder with some sadness about the things you know your narrow vantage point is preventing you from seeing.

Things Get Rearranged 
Huang Lihai

The world's secrets hide in slight variations.
The coffee aroma in the morning air
feels like the glow from a honeycomb,
meanwhile, outside the window,
the olive grove soaks in the twilight mist.
Tiny footsteps follow faint sounds to distant places,
but the fisherman has returned and is sitting in the courtyard
watching a bird foraging in the trees.
He still dreams of sending letters home.
The sea forgets and the glacier calves icebergs,
that's how all things under the sun
get rearranged.

Seductive Wind
Li Shangyu

The telephone is ringing,
up blows a blackish-green wind,
a seductive wind . . . for one's lost living,
but soon telephone wire, computer wire, and so on and so forth,
all come to intrude in continuous coils; he feels himself bound
  by wires.

Annoyed by wires without end, feeling restricted,
the bedroom, the parlor, the kitchen, all have become
Interrogation Time, but where is his arbitrator?
But in China, the Law only judges the feeble.

Seductive Wind, tell him, life only comes once.
In the Song Dynasty, men were killed casually, knights
  walked everywhere.
The telephone rings, puffs the green blackish wind,
Spring Girl, seductive wind, but he lives like China's
  summer malaise.

Married Life
Li Zhiyong

When you and I walk side by side, the wind makes our pants stick to
  our legs.
When we do the laundry together, I talk about my childhood,
and how in the mountains I saw a pair of sparrows,
crows the size of a pillow, and a nameless fruit tree.
When we embrace, we don't wish to be seen,
nor wish a giant bird would come and lift our burdens.
If it indeed flies by then, it won't want to take us with it,
it will go to some other people.
If it indeed flies by then, we wouldn't have noticed it anyway.
When we enter autumn together, feeling the severe cold,
we wish to have another two people with us, so
the husband also has a husband, the wife has a wife
to do the house chores together.
When we make a meal together, I ask:
how about rice tonight? She says, OK.
I say, what else is there to worry about? No worries, she says.
When we watch TV together, a few times we
forget to close the refrigerator door.
When we lie down together without talking, in bed,
we look at the roof and notice its gentle glow.

Friday, April 25, 2014

NPM: Curses!

Henry Fuseli, Death of Dido

I wrote a short story called "Katherine" not too long ago. While searching the Poetry Foundation for last Friday's Dorothy Parker poem (I was in a bit of a rush), I found a poem whose first line was "Katherine, Katherine, Katherine, Katherine." Out of curiosity I took a look at it,

It should be noted that historically—at least in the history of literature—the language of curses is the language of poetry.

Curse Two: The Naming
Cynthia Huntington (1951 – )

Katherine, Katherine, Katherine, Katherine.
Black hair, small cold eyes, whom you loved.
Cock-tease Katherine, chewer of souls.
The door blew open and she blew in, a ghoul.
Black air, small cold wind, taking everything.
Fish-eater Katherine, whose nails dig blood.
I'm going to call her pinch-cunt, pickle-lip,
piss-dribble, shit-smear, goat's-meat breath.
I want to throw stones at her mother's corpse,
send her children to name-change foster homes.
May the coat she is wearing burst into flames
and boil the flesh blistering off her bones.
May she be refused in both heaven and hell
and wander the earth forever without rest——
a hungry ghost clinging to the rocks and trees.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

NPM: Yet More Variations—Ladies' Letters to America

Raphael, "Justice" (for the Stanza della Segnatura)

A recap: as we've seen, poetry can serve as a political medium. A political cartoon can only communicate so much by way of illustration and simplification. The concision of a status update, tweet, or one-paragraph tumblr rant can be pointed, but rarely do they press very deeply. Political poetry can pillorize and ridicule as effectively as any social media snark, and with the added force of its artfulness; and it can call the unjust to account with a grace that the political cartoons and editorial invectives often lack, elevating the cause of the just and investing it with the unassailable truth of beauty.

This is all old news, of course, but it's relevant to today's pair of poems.

Two pieces of context: the first poem was written by a British woman; the nation she refers to is the pre-Civil War United States. The second was written in 1968, the year of the Mỹ Lai Massacre in Vietnam.

A Curse for a Nation
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861)

I heard an angel speak last night,
And he said 'Write!
Write a Nation's curse for me,
And send it over the Western Sea.'

I faltered, taking up the word:
'Not so, my lord!
If curses must be, choose another
To send thy curse against my brother.

'For I am bound by gratitude,
By love and blood,
To brothers of mine across the sea,
Who stretch out kindly hands to me.'

'Therefore,' the voice said, 'shalt thou write
My curse to-night.
From the summits of love a curse is driven,
As lightning is from the tops of heaven.'

'Not so,' I answered. 'Evermore
My heart is sore
For my own land's sins: for little feet
Of children bleeding along the street:

'For parked-up honors that gainsay
The right of way:
For almsgiving through a door that is
Not open enough for two friends to kiss:

'For love of freedom which abates
Beyond the Straits:
For patriot virtue starved to vice on
Self-praise, self-interest, and suspicion:

'For an oligarchic parliament,
And bribes well-meant.
What curse to another land assign,
When heavy-souled for the sins of mine?'

'Therefore,' the voice said, 'shalt thou write
My curse to-night.
Because thou hast strength to see and hate
A foul thing done within thy gate.'

'Not so,' I answered once again.
'To curse, choose men.
For I, a woman, have only known
How the heart melts and the tears run down.'

'Therefore,' the voice said, 'shalt thou write
My curse to-night.
Some women weep and curse, I say
(And no one marvels), night and day.

'And thou shalt take their part to-night,
Weep and write.
A curse from the depths of womanhood
Is very salt, and bitter, and good.'

So thus I wrote, and mourned indeed,
What all may read.
And thus, as was enjoined on me,
I send it over the Western Sea.

The Curse

Because ye have broken your own chain
With the strain
Of brave men climbing a Nation's height,
Yet thence bear down with brand and thong
On souls of others,——for this wrong
This is the curse. Write.

Because yourselves are standing straight
In the state
Of Freedom's foremost acolyte,
Yet keep calm footing all the time
On writhing bond-slaves,for this crime
This is the curse. Write.

Because ye prosper in God's name,
With a claim
To honor in the old world's sight,
Yet do the fiend's work perfectly
In strangling martyrs,——for this lie
This is the curse. Write.

Ye shall watch while kings conspire
Round the people's smouldering fire,
And, warm for your part,
Shall never dare——O shame!
To utter the thought into flame
Which burns at your heart.
This is the curse. Write.

Ye shall watch while nations strive
With the bloodhounds, die or survive,
Drop faint from their jaws,
Or throttle them backward to death;
And only under your breath
Shall favor the cause.
This is the curse. Write.

Ye shall watch while strong men draw
The nets of feudal law
To strangle the weak;
And, counting the sin for a sin,
Your soul shall be sadder within
Than the word ye shall speak.
This is the curse. Write.

When good men are praying erect
That Christ may avenge His elect
And deliver the earth,
The prayer in your ears, said low,
Shall sound like the tramp of a foe
That's driving you forth.
This is the curse. Write.

When wise men give you their praise,
They shall praise in the heat of the phrase,
As if carried too far.
When ye boast your own charters kept true,
Ye shall blush; for the thing which ye do
Derides what ye are.
This is the curse. Write.

When fools cast taunts at your gate,
Your scorn ye shall somewhat abate
As ye look o'er the wall;
For your conscience, tradition, and name
Explode with a deadlier blame
Than the worst of them all.
This is the curse. Write.

Go, wherever ill deeds shall be done,
Go, plant your flag in the sun
Beside the ill-doers!
And recoil from clenching the curse
Of God's witnessing Universe
With a curse of yours.
This is the curse. Write.

Nick Ut

The Firebombers
Anne Sexton (1928 – 1974)

We are America.
We are the coffin fillers.
We are the grocers of death.
We pack them in crates like cauliflowers.

The bomb opens like a shoebox.
And the child?
The child is certainly not yawning.
And the woman?
The woman is bathing her heart.
It has been torn out of her
and as a last act
she is rinsing it off in the river.
This is the death market.

where are your credentials?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NPM: More Variations, More Cities

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Boar Lane, Leeds

Yesterday's poems were about cities. Not real cities, not physical cities with geographical locations, histories, and idiosyncrasies, not London, Chicago, or New York; but conceptual cities, the idea of the city. Today's batch of poems are about London, Chicago, and New York. Enjoy!

The Lights of London
Louise Imogen Guiney (1861 – 1920)

The evenfall, so slow on hills, hath shot
Far down into the valley's cold extreme,
Untimely midnight; spire and roof and stream
Like fleeing spectres, shudder and are not.
The Hampstead hollies, from their sylvan plot
Yet cloudless, lean to watch as in a dream,
From chaos climb with many a sudden gleam,
London, one moment fallen and forgot.

Her booths begin to flare; and gases bright
Prick door and window; all her streets obscure
Sparkle and swarm with nothing true or sure,
Full as a marsh of mist and winking light;
Heaven thickens over, Heaven that cannot cure
Her tear by day, her fevered smile by night. 

Nathan Walsh, Little Russia

Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)

 Hog Butcher for the World,
 Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
 Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
 Stormy, husky, brawling,
 City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen
 your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I
 have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of
 women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this
 my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud
 to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here
 is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage
 pitted against the wilderness,

 Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under
 his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked,
 sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of
 Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Nathan Walsh, Queensboro Bridge

Goodbye, New York
(song from the wrong side of the Hudson)
Deborah Garrison (1965 – )

You were the big fat city we called hometown
You were the lyrics I sang but never wrote down

You were the lively graves by the highway in Queens
the bodega where I bought black beans

stacks of the Times we never read
nights we never went to bed

the radio jazz, the doughnut cart
the dogs off their leashes in Tompkins Square Park

You were the tiny brass mailbox key
the joy of "us" and the sorrow of "me"

You were the balcony bar in Grand Central Station
the blunt commuters and their destination

the post-wedding blintzes at 4 A.M.
and the pregnant waitress we never saw again

You were the pickles, you were the jar
You were the prizefight we watched in a bar

the sloppy kiss in the basement at Nell's
the occasional truth that the fortune cookie tells

Sinatra still swinging at Radio City
You were ugly and gorgeous but never pretty

always the question, never the answer
the difficult poet, the aging dancer

the call I made from a corner phone
to a friend in need, who wasn't at home

the fireworks we watched from a tenement roof
the brash allegations and the lack of any proof

my skyline, my byline, my buzzer and door
now you're the dream we lived before

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NPM: More Variations on a Theme: The City

Francis Criss, Third Avenue El

Today's batch is dedicated to anyone who has ever been seized by strange epiphanies in New York, London, Paris, or Tokyo, and blew their own mind trying to arrive at an understanding of the nature of the colossal, inexplicable thing surrounding and blaring at them on every side.

Hilda Doolittle (1886 – 1961)

Can we believe——by an effort
comfort our hearts:
it is not waste all this,
not placed here in disgust,
street after street,
each patterned alike,
no grace to lighten
a single house of the hundred
crowded into one garden-space.

Crowded——can we believe,
not in utter disgust,
in ironical play——
but the maker of cities grew faint
with the beauty of temple
and space before temple,
arch upon perfect arch,
of pillars and corridors that led out
to strange court-yards and porches
where sun-light stamped
black on the pavement.

That the maker of cities grew faint
with the splendour of palaces,
paused while the incense-flowers
from the incense-trees
dropped on the marble-walk,
thought anew, fashioned this——
street after street alike.

For alas,
he had crowded the city so full
that men could not grasp beauty,
beauty was over them,
through them, about them,
no crevice unpacked with the honey,
rare, measureless.

So he built a new city,
ah can we believe, not ironically
but for new splendour
constructed new people
to lift through slow growth
to a beauty unrivalled yet——
and created new cells,
hideous first, hideous now——
spread larve across them,
not honey but seething life.

And in these dark cells,
packed street after street,
souls live, hideous yet——
O disfigured, defaced,
with no trace of the beauty
men once held so light.

Can we think a few old cells
were left——we are left——
grains of honey,
old dust of stray pollen
dull on our torn wings,
we are left to recall the old streets?

Is our task the less sweet
that the larve still sleep in their cells?
Or crawl out to attack our frail strength:
You are useless. We live.
We await great events.
We are spread through this earth.
We protect our strong race.
You are useless.
Your cell takes the place
of our young future strength.

Though they sleep or wake to torment
and wish to displace our old cells——
thin rare gold——
that their larve grow fat——
is our task the less sweet?

Though we wander about,
find no honey of flowers in this waste,
is our task the less sweet——
who recall the old splendour,
await the new beauty of cities?

The city is peopled
with spirits, not ghosts, O my love:

Though they crowded between
and usurped the kiss of my mouth
their breath was your gift,
their beauty, your life.

Sandy Wager, Urban Sorrow

The City
Contantine P. Cavafy (1863 – 1933)
George Valassopoulo, translator

You said, "I will go to another land, I will go to another sea.
Another city will be found, a better one than this.
Every effort of mine is a condemnation of fate;
and my heart is——like a corpse——buried.
How long will my mind remain in this wasteland.
Wherever I turn my eyes, wherever I may look
I see black ruins of my life here,
where I spent so many years destroying and wasting."

You will find no new lands, you will find no other seas.
The city will follow you. You will roam the same
streets. And you will age in the same neighborhoods;
and you will grow gray in these same houses.
Always you will arrive in this city. Do not hope for any other——
There is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you have destroyed your life here
in this little corner, you have ruined it in the entire world.

M.C. Escher, Hall City(?)

John Fuller (1937 – )

In cities there are tangerine briefcases on the down-platform  
and jet parkas on the up-platform; in the mother of cities  
there is equal anxiety at all terminals.
  West a business breast, North a morose jig, East a false  
  escape, South steam in milk.

The centres of cities move westwards; the centre of the  
mother of cities has disappeared.
  North the great cat, East the great water, South the great  
  fire, West the great arrow.

In cities the sons of women become fathers; in the mother of  
cities the daughters of men have failed to become mothers.
  East the uneager fingers, South the damp cave, West the
  chained ankle, North the rehearsed cry.

Cities are built for trade, where women and men may freely  
through knowing each other become more like themselves;  
the mother of cities is built for government, where women  
and men through fearing each other become more like each  
other than they care to be.
  South the short, West the soap, North the sheets, East the  

In cities the church fund is forever stuck below blood heat; in  
the mother of cities the church is a community arts centre.
  West the Why-not, North the Now-then, East the End-
  product, South the Same-again.

In cities nobody can afford the price; in the mother of cities  
nobody dares to ask the price.
  North the telephone smile, East the early appointment,  
  South the second reminder, West the hanging button.

In cities the jealous man is jealous because he is himself in his  
imagination unfaithful; in the mother of cities the jealous man  
is jealous because he reads the magazines.
  East the endless arrival, South the astounding statistic,  
  West the wasted words, North the night of nights.

In cities we dream about our desires; in the mother of cities  
we dream about our dreams.