I often think of the City; I often think of it when I am thinking of you.
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I often think of the City; I often think of it when I am thinking of you.

I do so after strolling by a book, its parchment cover bending upwards,

in memory of time spent sprawled like a tent on the table. This book,

you've said to me, is your favorite; though after so long apart,

that may be a lie you've told to give a different truth. Reading the pages; here

Polo says, "every fiction I tell, I am telling a truth about you; you become

unfamiliar with every detail I tell of New York, a place you are not." You say,

"But I have been in New York. Each city I have seen you in holds a door

to every other. How could you forget that?" No, you're right.

I can stand by the black door of a warehouse, see someone

who has your hair, and find that I have been standing on a map signed

with your scribbled name. You make a good guide for a city you spent so

little time in; the City preserved with maps of formaldehyde,

delivered from formlessness. See, the atlases of the world showing

great, sprawling areas of circles and squares, rivers and graveyards, are

only of imagined towns, empty aesthetics. Here I hold your hand as it traverses

through the spanning stories, the webs of nerves, the tattoos needled by boots.

Those are the spider-fine details, the stuff of cartography. Maps circled

in little tangles around homes, knots of loops locked with other loops.

Only you could spend so much time wandering in the cold, threading rope

around towers of glass, golden yarn leading back out the entrance. Even in your hobbies

you speak in metaphor: the urban planner taking up knitting.

You told me of urgent designs against urban decay, applying eye serum to a skyscraper,

surgery to stadiums. You would irrigate the deserts. You're sure that erosion can be fought,

a conviction I could never wear down.

I should ask if you think of cities as art galleries or of them as antique shops.

The difference is only some years, fine. I mean to ask if cities live in the present

or in the past. They won't tell me a secret I do not already know. They only change

where they repeat it; they will whisper in an abandoned metro station,

an album of murals. Years later they will speak it plainly, in the small Xian

restaurant with blurred air, the sound of a screaming child falling in from the outside.

They say the softest love is that of years. The city should know. It is a scrapbook

of secret happenings, layers of sediment, roads of liquid stone.

I live in cities only as much as trailing down the street changes them, each

unfamiliar crossing another nation, a secret entered, climbing ladders and finding

history in second floors; Every tall park I find, a drop is dissolving

through limestone, expanding the reach of the sky into the earth. Oh, I know,

I really couldn't stay away for long. I worry for the paths to be hard to tread,

for the stones to dissolve to dirt, the easy dead of the past turned to implacable life.

This is to craft the past a castle, while I have it drawn up before me:


Come to New York, where the trees are bending down in innumerable

shapes, in the streetlights, signing to me how you have been.

Or, live with me in Portland. We'd always talked about it,

but I won't push you. In Manila, in Berlin. In a forest

cut by the road where cars head one way, or by the desert,

where crescented silver rises to kiss the skyline.

I will meet you there.

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