Beautiful Sometimes

This city is un(picturesque), not a
quaint New England town. It squats
in the palm of the foothills where other
(perhaps more delicate) cities might
nestle. Her whitewashed steeples are
outnumbered by concrete slabs and
vinyl-sided triple deckers spider-legging
their way up half-(un)forested slopes. Her
lifeblood is buried beneath
stone and sand and asphalt,
except where it emerges
sluggish and choked with weeds and rust
from culverts beneath the cracked streets.

This city is un(dying), never quite succumbing
to the dire predictions that shift her population
east and west, always returning here, to the
heartline of old railroad crossings and gutted
warehouse bricks. She somehow survives the
generation after generation that erases the mark
of the last generation with gentrification and
reclamation that only reclaims the last iteration
of all that is not beautiful, not charming,
neither soaring steel and glass nor
cozy cottage clapboard.

She has a face that only a mother could love.

Perhaps that’s why on autumn nights
when the setting sun edges flat black cloud-slashes
with copper, when the traffic on Route 9 blends
to ropes of pearls and rubies, when the hills
behind blink and glitter with ten thousand thousand lights
and those ahead are still aflame with the last November leaves

this mother has to remind herself that
this city is strong as steel and harsh,
this city is a stevedore, a fireman, an engineer
this city has cracked hands and weathered faces
she is uncompromising and there is little in her
that is cozy, warm or soft and even less that
melds and blends and smoothes, she is
the work of centuries, the end result of ages
of mistakes and harsh realities, she is, in the end
only human.

On nights like this, I have to remind myself
of what she is because when I stand at dusk on Castle Hill
and turn east and west and north and south
it’s impossible for me to remember that this city

is not beautiful.


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