Barbara Guest

1920 - 2006 / Wilmington, North Carolina, United States

The Inhabitants

Early night and the evening bus
Passing with a new wreath around
Its straggled head. The push cart
Halts and fifty pineapple eyes stare
Into the invalid light. We move
Like people in an opera on this street,
Arranged and decked, our arms
Progress against the dark, unconscious
Symbols of the hour we have left,
The escape we have planned and made.

The subway. Seated within
The nocturnal car, we expand; grow
Gracious in this self-conscious night.
Unnatural botanists, we observe
The stations as flora, more curious
So far underground. We select
The rarest, the one we years ago
Have seen inside a dream, and known
That here the trowel must sink,
The root be cut. And we ascend.

Memory of past cities. Cities
More beautiful in a poem. Fallen
And wept for, the warrior cities.
Even the silent ones, who are
Known only for the trouble
They have borne, the tormented ones.
Yet what can surpass the adventure
Of this city, crossed by water, beyond
A river. The only city whose lover
Is the bridge …

The grey cat enters the broken gate.
The ball hits the wall, and children
Run, side by side, down the walk.
The twilight games of the very young.
Somewhere a curtain moves and a pattern
Of lace falls from a room. Boulevarded
By space, every sound is of a thousand
Voices crying, and each one
Saying the other is false.
And the riverboat saying, return.

Someone is following us. Experienced
In apprehension we look back.
Relief turns the green face white,
For we have seen our familiar fear
In the long coat with the tearful
Lapel, the perpetual ghost under
The lamplight. We call out.
His answer could be affirmation,
Or even sorrow changed into a leaf,
For we are allowed to enter our house.
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