It's just poetry, it won't bite

Traveler Lost in City Center

05.20.18 Posted in today's words by

Max Reif’s most recent poem to appear here was “Traveler’s Replay” (April 2018)

Traveler Lost in City Center
By Max Reif

“A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many.”
—T.S. Eliot

I got lost in a great city yesterday,
a traveler visiting for a few days.
The city had been on its best behavior,
showing me museums and parks,
sending me friends to have lunch with.
I’d been on an outing all day and was proud
that I knew the way back
and could save a few bucks by walking.

I’d gotten most of the way
and the vast downtown loomed ahead.
I entered, confident as before,
waiting with a horde of people at a crosswalk,
and when the sign went green we all flowed
like a wave by Hokusai, whose work is at the Museum,
and kept streaming down the sidewalk,
many dressed in black but all colors of faces and clothes,
many with mouths set, many playing with phones,
some talking on them or with a friend,
each with a secret destination.

The towers went on and on.
They didn’t all look the same,
but then trees in a forest don’t all look the same
and you can still get lost.
I thought my hotel’s street should be coming up,
but I began to feel a little uncertain
and asked a man at the next crosswalk.

He said it was the next street, so my
intuition about directions was confirmed.
The light changed again and our
human wave surged once more onto the asphalt.
Though it wasn’t officially quite rush hour,
you know how early the great push begins,
and the crowd presses in and you have to keep pace.

Homeless people sat leaning against the sides of buildings,
each in a little camp with a blanket and maybe a box-table.
I guess they weren’t leering, but I felt horrified. It was winter.
Yet I did not feel secure enough to help.
I did go back and ask one lady, “Do you want food”
and she shook her head no.
A girl behind me suddenly started howling
as she ran across the street,
I’ve no idea why.

A street sign looked like the one I was looking for
and when I got closer my eyes could see it really was,
but amid the vast extended array of buildings
I wasn’t sure which way to turn.
I had a hunch, but if it was wrong
I’d be traveling farther in the wrong direction,
and my energy was starting to flag.
I checked with someone, my hunch had been wrong.

Now I was part of the current of humanity’s river
flowing down the street of my hotel.
More homeless sat against the buildings,
and finally I saw the little blue and gold neon sign
and turned in to the corridor that led to the elevator.

Up one floor and down the hallway to my room,
pressing my card against the card-reader
opening the door and finally closing it
against that too-much world.

But I was not all back yet.
Parts of me had leaked away.
It took hours yet
before I could honestly say,
“Home at last.”

One Response to “Traveler Lost in City Center”

  1. E. V. "Beth" Wyler says:

    Many people, myself included, are “directionally challenged”. I identified with this poem. It was a pleasure to read.

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