Photo collage of city buildings in Australia - Citiness

The author recently visited Suva, the capital of Fiji, as well as the Australian cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. As he traveled, the theme of this poem began to emerge.


No longer
do I enter a city.

I enter citiness.

Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis,
Barcelona, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago,
Melbourne, Roma, New Orleans, New York, Cincinnati…

Each time, the drama: the city centre .
Nucleus appearing in the distance
hushed and still, washed in silence,
yet even in this first view
a cyclotron in the imagination.

The thrill of its power.
Internal cheering for its thrust
toward the unlimited.
Some satisfaction, and a wish
for even more, for true Unlimitedness.

Tall skyscrapers in Sydney, Australia area - Citiness

Sydney, Australia 

An archetype:
once an American one,
now the world’s,
the spires thrust up.
The eye, restless,
climbs in a glance.
Could these be the tallest in the world?
How many of the highest ones are clustered here?
Count the towers, count the floors.
The eye, the child within,
compelled to find out.

Closer, closer to the mighty hub,
finally entering its labyrinth.
Find a place to stay,
or the place already booked,
or a place to live.
Put up your stuff
and go walking.

Beauty on every corner.
The unplanned juxtaposition
of angles, protean sculpture changing
with every step the viewer takes.
Sometimes, a tower in a checkerboard
of pastel colours.
Sometimes, abstract images etched in the rising glass.
Unending variations of architectural imagination—
so long as they serve the current vision of urban (wo)man.

Think of the uses of cities:
walled fortresses for protection;
consolidations of energy and culture,
wealth and trade.
Teaching machine for children,
immigrants, and those from the hinterlands.
A vision: “from each according to his
ability, to each according to his need”
and the obvious failure of that vision,
the people camping in the streets,
reaching out with indicting or deadened eyes.

The city, a mandala,
one’s self in so many forms,
one’s path in so many winding or rushing lanes
simultaneously moving in every direction,
its ceaseless becoming
consumed somehow,
in the persistent echo,
hinted at way back
in that firstdistant glimpse

of a deeper, timeless

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images: Max Reif