One City Only - Poem by Alice Corbin
One city only, of all I have lived in,
And one house of that city, belong to me ...
I remember the mellow light of afternoon
Slanting across brick buildings on the waterfront,
And small boats at rest on the floating tide,
And larger boats at rest in the near-by harbor;
And I know the tidal smell, and the smell of mud,
Uncovering oyster flats, and the brown bare toes of small negroes
With the mud oozing between them;
And the little figures leaping from log to log,
And the white children playing among them
I remember how I played among them.
And I remember the recessed windows of the gloomy halls
In the darkness of decaying grandeur,
The feel of cool linen in the cavernous bed,
And the window curtain swaying gently
In the night air;
All the half-hushed noises of the street
In the southern town,
And the thrill of life
Like a hand in the dark
With its felt, indeterminate meaning:
I remember that I knew there the stirring of passion,
Fear, and the knowledge of sin,
Tragedy, laughter, death. . . .
And I remember, too, on a dead Sunday afternoon
In the twilight,
When there was no one else in the house,
My self suddenly separated itself
And left me alone,
So that the world lay about me, lifeless.
I could not touch it, or feel it, or see it;
Yet I was there.
The sensation lingers:
Only the most vital threads
Hold me at all to living . . .
Yet I only live truly when I think of that house;
Only enter then into being.
One city only of all I have lived in,
And one house of that city, belong to me.
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