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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
My parents have come home laughing
From the feast for Robert Burns, late, on foot;
They have leaned against graveyard walls,
Have bent double in the glittering frost,
Their bladders heavy with tea and ginger.
Burns, suspended in a drop, is flicked away
As they wipe their eyes, and is not offended.

What could
poem
To raise a stump of rock into a tower, rolling a stone 
     in place as the years pass.
Strangers who only know your silhouette bid it farewell and
     travel to Japan,
Cross China, venture into India, to Europe, and, changed 
     by time and space,
Sail home over the bulging eye of ocean only to see, when
poem
Roland was a Paladin of Charlemagne,
And he was my mother’s cousin.  The Paladin
Served Charlemagne and died, blowing his horn.
The cousin spent a day with her at the fair
Over sixty years ago.  The great Paladin
Enjoys an epic named after him.
The cousin is remembered as a big kid
Who never grew up.  His first