Sunday morning in Ithaca

Sunday morning in Ithaca


The city opens up in the morning, when, giddy from sleep,

it throws off the covers of night. It greets passers-by

with a gap-toothed asphalt smile full of holes and fillings

and hugs them with its enchanting tree-lined streets which

aren’t so easy to categorize in English. But

I adore sidewalks, even when they are humpbacked.

They are the blood vessels of the city. I penetrate them

not knowing if I am a virus or an antibody.

Step after step. Street by street. Gardens in bloom

veil the run-down houses, power cables

hang like quipus….sending hidden messages

in a forgotten tongue or betraying bungled installation?

Slipshodness as a fashion, like new blue jeans with rips.

Stagnant air, a whiff of a joint, a dazzling percentage

of humidity in the air. A city as sad as my old aunt,

once an enchanting beauty, who can’t renounce

her girlish gestures and seductive manners…

A summer rain washes the dirt from the wrinkled streets,

youth dries up and decays in the herbarium of memory.

I admire the number of churches, but it’s too early for services…

Nothing is happening. Just a person or two

carrying their coffee in throwaway plastic cups.

One house has a sign Resistance, but it turns out

to be the name of a hairdresser’s shop. No other signs

of disagreement, just strings of banners.

All of a sudden, here’s a man! With a signboard:

Seeking human kindness. Finally someone has a message

to convey and the courage to bring it out

before the eyes of the nameless crowd. But no one turns to watch….

people walk dogs, passers-by pass by….

The proper place for me: a city that lives by inertia

the same way I do.

I stroll along.

Birds on branches tweet, I no longer keep track of what.

I look for a way past the feeling of impasse.

I love poems like this one, that come with pain,

start with the stomach and can’t be held back…

Downtown next to the sidewalk a beet grows like a flower.

A momentary smell of linden, though linden season was back in June.


Translated by Wayles Browne

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