Annie Finch

Rookie (1956 / New Rochelle, New York)

In Cities, Be Alert - Poem by Annie Finch

You may hear that your heartbeat is uneven
and let new tension climb around your shoulders,
thinking you've found the trick for going mad.
But try to keep a grip on where you are.

Remember: all around you is pure city;
try to stay alert. On the wide streets,
so empty late at night, streaking in glass,
the color of an alley, or the fall

of a sideways flicker from a neon sign
may utterly and briefly disconcert you—
but as you go, you'll find that noise is worse.
Prepare for noise. But never scream. Even tensing

ears too far in advance can sharpen sirens,
and as for horns. ... When you're back to
your normal rhythm after such encounters,

just try to stay alert. You'll never know
exactly who is coming up behind you,
but the sudden movement of pedestrians
will finally, of course, be what disarms you.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, January 25, 2016

Poem Edited: Monday, January 25, 2016

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