Her Names

Ancient cities knew her names
Each making one their own,
Their windy walls her girdle,
Their ashlar towers her crown,
Her maidenhood a barrier against siege weapons,
Her fruits traded daily in the marketplace. 

But on the highest hill, most holy,
Where the temple met the sky,
Matter tore away a little;
Shadows of the stars slipped in
And curled around the fire,
Called by incense to rest in dark halls,
And where the battlements met heaven
The seeds of light fell most bright. 

She still hovers on our silver towers
Winking at planes and pigeons.
We look away from her face most days,
Except for calling cities “she.”
Remembering fondly some home place
We can personify nostalgia
In her old robe, or, when wounded,
Looking down
Can almost see her face,
Nearly apprehend her crenelated crown.

 Where cities once were queens,
We see them now as vendors
And banks not temples touch the sky
And light becomes a shroud
So stars and tides no longer find
a resting place and walls are out of fashion
But war is not.

 I’d give her back her crown
Train the city fathers how to pray,
Give alms in the marketplace.
Bells ringing, a sad guitar,
Shadows blue again in the afternoon,

Our towers will touch heaven cool at dusk,
And stars will seep in again like moths,
A purple border will fly down main street
And every citizen be trailed by ribbons home tonight.


Siphonophorae (jellyfish)