You see them from airplanes, nameless green islands
in the oceanic, rectilinear plains,
twenty or thirty blocks, compact, but with
everything needed visibly in place—
the high-school playing fields, the swatch of park
along the crooked river, the feeder highways,
the main drag like a zipper, outlying malls
sliced from dirt-colored cakes of plowed farmland.
Small lives, we think—pat, flat—in such tight grids.
But, much like brains with every crease CAT-scanned,
these cities keep their secrets: vagaries
of the spirit, groundwater that floods
the nearby quarries and turns them skyey blue,
dewdrops of longing, jewels, boxed in these blocks.
"Island Cities" by John Updike, from Americana: And Other Poems. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.