Late on Sunday Afternoon

Late on Sunday Afternoon

The city leans in on you
the streets curling like horizontal vines
poised to twist around your ankles
and yank. You trip on a broken curb.
Peeling vacant the empty store facades
leer and lurch along the street
the one occupied location
just hanging up the Closed sign
For today or forever you don’t know
and it doesn’t matter. Instead
the alley hooks out a finger to you
the palm of its hand holding
a flock of café chairs and tables
pink red orange lemon tangerine
skinny legs set on a cracked asphalt
skin lined with memory fate
wealth love and all of it meaning nothing
Every chair is empty every table bare
You skirt the silent crowd you don’t look back.
Inside the faded hotel a maze of
staircase half-flights twist through landings
the built-to-last and wondering why
solid masonry walls looming over
the lobby a grandiose and silent space
whose carpet is worn past any refreshing
and the restaurant is closed for dinner
You step aside to avoid
the unctuous-by-rote good evening
the concierge sends skimming
over three white scraps of paper
fallen at his feet and ignored
Not his job. He has already
overcharged you for postcard stamps
and your room is noisy and hot.
The city
leans in on you.


19 thoughts on “Late on Sunday Afternoon

  1. Fabulous use of personification in this poem and it really adds to that oppressive atmosphere of being in a city. I actually used to love city life when I was younger. I don’t know if it is age or the fact I lived in a remote and rural community for over a decade that has made me much less tolerant of city life. I still love to visit but I cannot see me wanting to live in a city ever again.

    • I have never lived in a city but worked many years in the city. Never wanted to live there either – I guess I am a suburbanite through and through. This poem was written from a trip to Pittsburgh – the city center (with the highrise office buildings) was deserted on the weekend and the atmosphere was just…not dangerous but oppressing. No life. Just buildings.

    • Thank you. Every city has a personality and a life, of course. And getting to know it can be a good experience or bad, or mxture, I think. But it’s always going to be interesting, all right. !

        • I visited there only once, in 1983, when the wall was still up, to both West and East Berlin, and of course they were two totally different cities in all ways. I have often wished I could see the city as it is today, combined into one.

        • I bet it must have been really interesting, especially the wall and east meeting west. Now it’s a beautiful cosmopolitan city. The people are very friendly. One of the big things I noticed was how orderly the metro is compared to the madness in London.

        • It was very interesting, the memories are very clear all this time later. A vanished time all right, the two cities side by side. Crossing the checkpoint and goingthroug hthe wall was a sobering experience and once on the east side, the contrast with the west can’t be overemphasized. I am glad things have changed, and I am also glad I saw them as they were before.

        • I bet it was a fantastic experience. The difference between east and west was huge wasn’t it.We went in December because it’s my wife’s birthday so we got to see the Christmas markets. A really great experience.

        • I had friends who went to Austria (before pandemic) for a similar kind of Christmas fair. We have a version here in Philadelphia where I live, of course not the same, but in the tradition. I hope to go this holiday season. I will think of Berlin, if I do.

        • We live in Hull East Yorkshire and are very lucky where we live. About a mile or away we catch a Ferry to Europe. Been to Amsterdam which is weird and wonderful! Prague was nice to see. Philadelphia eh! What’s it like there then?

  2. Sounds like some of my dreams. But really, life in the city doesn’t even remotely resemble that. Really. Not even remotely. (K)

    • Yes, it does. Depending on the person, the city, and the particular day. Everyone’s perspective is different. Not every city is healthy and not every person responds well. This is my view based on specific experiences. Which in this case in this location were as I wrote. That’s all.

      • Cities have a bad reputation. Like all places, they vary, and different people like different things. If you’re referring to Pittsburgh, my younger daughter, whose employer is based there, is not enamored either. But I rather liked it during my one visit. Not to live there though.

    • Thank you. I remember this poem took a very long time to write, many additions and deletions. I could not get the feeling right from the words but I think in the end I met what I was hoping to do (at least inside my own head). I am glad to hear it spoke itself to you as well.

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