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"The place I describe here is a composite of cities I have called home or had to call home. The origin of the poem’s title should be obvious. I hope it is just as obvious that it is possible to hate and love the place you are from."
—Mark Jarman

Tale of Two Cities

Mark Jarman, 1952

Sick as it approaches, sick as it departs.
In fall the hulks of burned out houses stand unrazed.
In winter bearded with fire truck ice they stand unrazed.
The ice cream maker, the piano tuner, the ceramist and tile engraver,—
The belovèd craftsmen turn up killed at their work places.
And the river, stingy, greedy, shrinks and enlarges.
And bumper stickers protest how people like it here. The hated city.

And the loved city? Only at a distance can it be loved.
How else do those mean little squares and boulevards sprouting their haystraw weeds
Become the Champs-Elysées and Princes Street, except in memory?
Shadowy byways and alleys, wildflower chain linked lots
Where a lover turned and smiled and did more than kiss,
And corners where small hilarities gathered, teasing,
But singing in unison,—these map happiness.

The hated city. The loved city. The same city.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Jarman. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 27, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Jarman. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 27, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Mark Jarman

Mark Jarman

Poet Mark Jarman won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and has authored many collections of poetry.

by this poet

poem
In Ball's Market after surfing till noon,
We stand in wet trunks, shivering,
As icing dissolves off our sweet rolls
Inside the heat-blued counter oven,
When they appear on his portable TV,
Riding a float of chiffon as frothy
As the peeling curl of a wave.
The parade m. c. talks up their hits
And their new houses
poem
Tall blades of tufted grasses, keep on flowing.
Towhees like good ideas, keep on flowing.		

Pooled water, black in shadow, green in sunshine,	
With wild olives bending down to drink,

Those figures coming daily to the bridge
To look at their two shadows on your surface,

Keep them returning, keep them coming
poem
Consider how you were made.

Consider the loving geometry that sketched your bones, the passionate symmetry that sewed 
flesh to your skeleton, and the cloudy zenith whence your soul descended in shimmering rivulets 
across pure granite to pour as a single braided stream into the skull’s cup.

Consider the first