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About this Poem 

"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

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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
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Black Phoebe

Highwayman of the air, coal-headed, darting
Plunderer of gnat hordes, lasso with beak –

"Surely, that fellow creature on the wing,"
The phoebe thinks, "should fly like this."

                     And loops
His flight path in a wiry noose, takes wing
Like a cast line and hits the living fly
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How do you turn into a flower of the field,
the lily clothed to make Solomon rue his glory?

What leap takes off from here towards evolution,
pointing the way to the pearly everlasting?

Eons made the flower and flowers have their agendas,
whatever the population of the field—

more than a lifetime to construct