I should like to rise and go
Where the golden apples grow;—
Where below another sky
Parrot islands anchored lie,
And, watched by cockatoos and goats,
Lonely Crusoes building boats;—
Where in sunshine reaching out
Eastern cities, miles about,
Are with mosque and minaret
Among sandy gardens set,
And the rich goods from near and far
Hang for sale in the bazaar,—
Where the Great Wall round China goes,
And on one side the desert blows,
And with bell and voice and drum
Cities on the other hum;—
Where are forests, hot as fire,
Wide as England, tall as a spire,
Full of apes and cocoa-nuts
And the negro hunters’ huts;—
Where the knotty crocodile
Lies and blinks in the Nile,
And the red flamingo flies
Hunting fish before his eyes;—
Where in jungles, near and far,
Man-devouring tigers are,
Lying close and giving ear
Lest the hunt be drawing near,
Or a comer-by be seen
Swinging in a palanquin;—
Where among the desert sands
Some deserted city stands,
All its children, sweep and prince,
Grown to manhood ages since,
Not a foot in street or house,
Not a stir of child or mouse,
And when kindly falls the night,
In all the town no spark of light.
There I’ll come when I’m a man
With a camel caravan;
Light a fire in the gloom
Of some dusty dining-room;
See the pictures on the walls,
Heroes, fights and festivals;
And in a corner find the toys
Of the old Egyptian boys.
This poem is in the public domain.
The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.
Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman
at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound
along with the ubiquitous smell of something baking.
It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.
Who knew this could be a life, having languages
instead of relationships, struggling even then,
finding out what it means to be a woman
by watching the faces of men passing by.
I went to distant cities, it almost didn’t matter
which, so primed was I to be reverent.
All of them have the beautiful bridge
crossing a grey, near-sighted river,
one that massages the eyes, focuses
the swooping birds that skim the water’s surface.
The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier
because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.
I spent so much time alone, when I actually turned lonely
it was vertigo.
Myself estranged is how I understood the world.
My ignorance had saved me, my vices fueled me,
and then I turned forty. I who love to look and look
couldn’t see what others did.
Now I think about currencies, linguistic equivalents, how
lop-sided they are, while
my reflection blurs in the shop windows.
Wanting to be as far away as possible exactly as much as still
Shamelessly entering a Starbucks (free wifi) to write this.
Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets
In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
of your solitude, must be past
thousands, for you rode this plane
alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
well into the next hamlet, town,
city, the next century, as the trees twitch
and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll
wonder if this compass will ever change.
The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
to be close, so why should you?
Copyright © 2015 by Sally Wen Mao. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.