The Anonymity of the Big City

While the poem below is not actually about the secrets that birthmothers often harbor, there are many ideas and images in it that struck a chord with me. I took a lot of comfort in moving from my small Iowa town to Los Angeles a few years after my son was born. The farther away I got from the place of my transgression, the more likely it seemed to me that I could maintain my secret.
Move to the City  
 
live life as a stranger. Disappear
into frequent invention, depending
on the district, wherever you get off
the train. For a night, take the name
of the person who’d say yes to that
offer, that overture, the invitation to
kiss that mouth, sit on that lap. Assume
the name of whoever has the skill to
slip from the warm side of the sleeping
stranger, dress in the hallway of the
hotel. This is a city where people
know the price of everything, and
know that some of the best things
still come free. In one guise: shed
all that shame. In another: flaunt the
plumage you’ve never allowed
yourself to leverage. Danger will
always be outweighed by education,
even if conjured by a lie. Remember:
go home while it’s still dark. Don’t
invite anyone back. And, once inside,
take off the mask. These inventions
are the art of a kind of citizenship,
and they do not last. In the end, it
might mean nothing beyond further
fortifying the walls, crystallizing
the questioned, tested autonomy,
ratifying the fact that nothing will be
as secret, as satisfying, as the work
you do alone in your room.

One thought on “The Anonymity of the Big City

  1. Gen

    it’s been a while since I read your posts just due to my own busy schedule but you always seem to hit the nail on the head. Beautiful…the title of the poem and the first line “Move to the city, live life as a stranger” is much the same in spirit as a poem I wrote called “Shell.” You become a shell of a being basically…Such a beautiful picture and poem. Really neat!

    Reply

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