Nostalgic City

You have to be a city to feel

the insistence of years on your spine,

your biceps, your thighs. Bittersweet, dreamy.

 

You have to be an empty lot, an uninhabited

home, to understand nostalgia. Voices of children

long dead, unlit rooms behind tattered curtains,

forgotten fragrance of French toast on spring mornings,

a rolled-up newspaper thudding on the porch,

Dagwood Bumstead sharing an old joke

with Blondie on Page 5.

 

You have to be a store in some side street

a pawnbroker or a bookmaker shuffling index cards

numerals and letters recorded by ink-stained fingers

to add up the years in your memory.

 

You have to be a music hall, run down and disused

doors falling off their hinges, to hear songs from

last century’s operettas, pews empty now of petticoats

and corduroy, laughter and loneliness combining

in the odors of beer and cologne, couples holding

hands in the gloom of a bygone era.

 

You have to be a 78rpm record, red labeled, to waltz

with Victor Sylvester, thrill at Enrico Caruso, still there,

sweet and strong behind the scratches, singing vesti la giubba

as the now threadbare brocade of an opera theater

in a far-away city sweeps open.

 

Five dollars in your pocket yet still full of hope – a city

abandoned in time, dreaming of yesterday.

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© Johnmichael Simon

2016

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