About this Poem 

"What can one learn from anonymity? Freedom, flexibility, invention, the chance to know who you are by acting out who you may not be. There is a lot to be gained from participating in the world around you, from engagement. This poem is an homage to the art of autonomy."
—Nathaniel Bellows

Move to the City

Nathaniel Bellows

live life as a stranger. Disappear
into frequent invention, depending
on the district, wherever you get off
the train. For a night, take the name
of the person who’d say yes to that
offer, that overture, the invitation to
kiss that mouth, sit on that lap. Assume
the name of whoever has the skill to
slip from the warm side of the sleeping
stranger, dress in the hallway of the
hotel. This is a city where people
know the price of everything, and
know that some of the best things
still come free. In one guise: shed
all that shame. In another: flaunt the
plumage you’ve never allowed
yourself to leverage. Danger will
always be outweighed by education,
even if conjured by a lie. Remember:
go home while it’s still dark. Don’t
invite anyone back. And, once inside,
take off the mask. These inventions
are the art of a kind of citizenship,
and they do not last. In the end, it
might mean nothing beyond further
fortifying the walls, crystallizing
the questioned, tested autonomy,
ratifying the fact that nothing will be
as secret, as satisfying, as the work
you do alone in your room.

Copyright © 2013 by Nathaniel Bellows. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 5, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Nathaniel Bellows

by this poet

poem
Is it agony that has bleached them to such beauty? Their stand 
is at the edge of our property—white spires like fingers, through which
the deer emerge with all the tentative grace of memory. Your father

loved these trees. When you try to imagine his childhood, it is all old 
footage, in a similar scheme: black