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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

poem

And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses and they were talking to Jesus. Mark 9:2

1

They were talking to him about resurrection, about law,
      about the suffering ahead.
They were talking as if to remind him who he was and
      who they were. He was not
Like his three friends
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
poem
The wave breaks
And I'm carried into it.
This is hell, I know,
Yet my father laughs,
Chest-deep, proving I'm wrong.
We're safely rooted,
Rocked on his toes.

Nothing irked him more
Than asking, "What is there
Beyond death?"
His theory once was
That love greets you,
And the loveless
Don't know what to say.