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Your City

ISSUE:  Spring 1994
How much would it take for this city
That so far has belonged to others
To be yours as well,
The houses set in rows and each row named
So you can find the garden of your new acquaintance
Long before sundown, just as you promised,
And the talk has time to wander and pause.

How much as you walk home in the dark
For the portly policeman, who now
Stands on the corner for others,
To stand for you by the grocery store
Still open for your convenience,
The lettuce and cucumber planted last spring
For you as well, weeded and watered,
Picked this very week, sorted and loaded,
And driven along a highway where a highway crew
Has worked all month for you digging a culvert.

How much till the book on the nightstand at home
Written now for others be written for you
In hours stolen from sleep and children,
Sweet and bitter wisdom distilled as a gift
As the author guesses you’re coming along
In need of encouragement and of warning.

Three weeks till it’s due at the local library.
How much would it take for the right
To wander the stacks all afternoon,
Wrested for others from kings and shamans,
To be wrested for you as well,
And the Constitution amended to protect your rights
Against the privileges of the few
And the prejudice of the many.

You learned the story in school, along with stories
Of parents who sold their wagons and farms
And said good-bye in tears to friends and family.
You heard your teacher say they sailed for you,
But you couldn’t believe it.

How much would it take for it all to be possible,
For you to walk the streets of a glimmering city
Begemmed with houses of worship and lecture halls
That thrust the keys to bliss into your hands.
A city where for you as well
Mohammud decides to linger at Mecca
And Jesus rides his donkey into crazed Jerusalem
And Moses descends the mountain and loving Buddha
Turns his back on heaven, hearing your sighs.

How much till invisible hands,
That have left instructions for others
In every lonely hotel room, lead you
To lock up evil and coax the good
From whatever corner of your soul it’s fled to.
The beleaguered good you’ve always imagined
Looking for others to deliver it
When all along it’s looked for you.


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