Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The City (a poem)

A city is not just built, inhabited and ruled;
A city is visited and seen.
A city is not just its walls, buildings, and places;
A city is the contrast:
Between itself and its surroundings;
Between itself and other cities.
A city is not just the property of its owners;
It belongs as much to its visitors and guests.
A city is not just seen;
A city is remembered, related, made present from afar.
A city is one, and many in one.
A city is many villages and yet more than the sum of its parts.
A city has character and personality. Each city is unique.
A city offers protection. It excludes dangers, enemies.
A city withstands onslaughts and it surrenders. Sometimes it is conquered and destroyed.
A city has allure, it conjures happiness and it disappoints, abandons.
The city is dangerous. Sometimes it is in danger.

There is a king in the city. Or at least a mayor.
The people of the city are known by the city’s name: Athenians, Spartans, Romans, Jerusalemites.
There is a god in the city. YHWH is the god who dwells in Jerusalem.

A city needs water.
A city produces waste.
A city has markets where wares are bought and sold and people exchange news.
A city has a center and margins. It has different quarters for rich and poor.

Cities are visited and abandoned.
Cities thrive and fall into ruin.
Cities dominate regions.

Cities are sometimes known by different names.
Cities have mottos and monikers.
Cities attract artists and offer opportunities to planners and architects.
Cities have engineers.
Cities require ingenuity.
Cities compete.

Cities have temples and churches.
Old cities have antiquities and ruins, illuminated at night,
favorably displayed as the city’s past.
New cities are clean. If they are no longer clean, they are no longer new.