My City Is You

Time passes, distance grows, things are no longer what they seem. A prose poem.

I spent evenings in the heart of the city
when my own heart was new.
I climbed your towers thinking I could
gaze from your windows and see forever.
I drank the brightest cocktails
atop your glowingest rooftops.
I explored the forbidden excitements
of your darkest places. I awakened
in your torpid gutters at dawn,
basking in low-slung golden sunlight
that left me breathless and energized
as I hurtled into another day.

But when cities cool for us, we decamp.
We set up shop in our soul’s calmer suburbs
and become not doers, but watchers.
Time transforms each of us into our personal John Does —
not outsiders, precisely, but enlightened pretenders,
eyeing from a distance for the first time
the urban intimacies we have cherished for so long.
We are inside and outside,
experiencing and watching all at once:
Lovers and voyeurs, powered by hope and fire,
locked in our profane dance of place-trading.

A city at night is full of sirens.
Now, chastened, I hear them from afar.
Their demanding dramas still slice through me
and I vibrate with the chaos they herald.
But on this day, for once,
I can ignore the unsettling emergencies
that their jagged promise holds.

Like so many of my kind,
I was arrogant about the city.
I thought it was my own,
that it had spent its entire history
waiting only for me
that it came alive only when I finally, inevitably
arrived at its doorstep
and had the temerity to knock.
I believed I was a citizen of the city.
Time, though, took delight in proving me wrong.
I paid required tolls, traversed bridges of hot metal,
pushed through dimly vignetted tunnels
with no visible progress.
And today my admission to you, my metropolis,
is gone with the wind, spirited off by days
that became months, by months that peaceably
assembled into years and blew casual wrinkles
onto my once-callow face.

Now it begins: I wish my city a doleful goodbye
with a tender poem and a forever echoing song.
And I know, natively but no longer naively,
that while the city that loved me pulsates on
I am now a visitor forevermore
watching the luminous skyline from atop a distant hill
and smiling at a fragmented memory
that taunts me with my own fading fever dream
and tries to persuade me
I once belonged.

— Bangkok, Thailand, 4/27/17

Ted Anthony, a Pittsburgher living in Thailand, is the author of Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song. He’s on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

Photo illustration by Ted Anthony. Used with permission.

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