Two Cities

   Salt Lake
High spires of piety
No smoking on the grounds
Wide streets high wind
The hotel leaks orchestral sounds.

“Women and men pulled carts
Like oxen.” Liquor sold
By package only. All the night
Wind again rain and unexpected cold.

The lake continues to recede; the girls
Forsake the faith; the Mormon hours pass.
We dutifully examine Brigham Young’s
Gold inkwell (in a case of thumb-marked glass).

   San Francisco
Beside the bay, observers penetrate
Distance upon distance, cloud on cloud,
Crayons of smoke that sketch blue sky
With gray appeals. We pause, stretched side by side,
Safe for the moment from the nudging crowd,
Laughter for strangeness, and old myths crisping in the grate.

These trinkets, essences that we have saved,
Sheathed valuables that hold us here
Where gull-cry, wave-wash, dash of listening sea
Stir memory and love, are suddenly 
Minute survivors, permanent and clear. 
—We must go back. Your eyes are mirrors, strangely grave. 


Reproduced from The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees, 3rd edition, edited by Donald Justice, by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 1975, 1962 by the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright renewed 2003 by the University of Nebraska Press.