Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Island Cities" by John Updike

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.

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