© 2010, 2016 by Vernon Miles Kerr
When a provincial is called upon to travel
His luggage includes the place from whence he came.
He drags it along and holds it up as a ruler
Against every novel thing he sees.
But that’s not bad.
It serves to avoid confusion
It makes him understand the uniqueness
Of places he visits.
For the Californian,
San Francisco comes to mind .
But not so hilly,
But bricks, bricks, red bricks.
We’d have ‘em too except for ours
Being shattered and culled in epic quakes.
And so many Irish Pubs
And other old stuff.
“Benjamin Franklin was born on this spot.”
“Benjamin Franklin was baptized in this church.”
“Paul Revere rode through here.”
“Here, Alexander Graham Bell called for Mr. Watson.”
Those far-away mythical places in the Weekly Reader
Are real, afterall.
And there are the Red Sox.
You don’t have to see them to sense their presence:
They are on everyone’s lips:
The Red Sox doing battle against the Green Monster…
And against the Yankees, them damn’d Yankees.
What on Earth can compare to the Arch?
No superlative is adequate.
Nothing prepares you for that first glimpse,
No travelogue, no picture in the Nat. Geo.
Soaring above the downtown skyscrapers,
Its satin-silver face reflects
The sky and clouds,
And the river,
That Old Man River.
Your first thoughts are
Who conceived this;
Who planned this;
Who approved it?
How many minds had to meld
For a city to accomplish this?
Millenia later archaeologists will theorize,
“Something significant happened here.”
Yes, but not so much “Westward Expansion,”
But more: human cooperation.
I stop at a signal light
And wait while a tidalwave of red-shirted fans
Crosses and flows toward Busch.
“Gotta support those Cards.”
One senses in St. Louis
A spirit of community, of egalitarian concern
For everyone’s pleasure, everyone’s edification:
The famed Zoo has no admission fee
Neither does the Art Musum
Nor the Science Museum
There are even free seats at
Forrest Park’s Summertime Opera.
When the project ends, I head West on 70.
An elastic memory stretches out behind;
It won’t break.
Someday it will yank me back to St. Louis.
Quirky, busy little Boulder
With its sprawling, yellow brick university
And Nineteenth Centry business district,
Spread out at the foot of the Flatirons.
Those jutting stone slabs seem to grow out of Boulder
They thrust upward beckoning the hikers,
Promising untold vistas higher up in the Rockies,
That backbone of North America.
The buskers and hippies along Pearl Street’s Walkway
Chat and snigger at the weird plain people
From places like Des Moines or Bakersfield.
The visitors gasp at the neon sign advertising
A basement weed dispensary.
They playfully push each other toward the steps.
Most resist, but some descend
With a feigned resignation
And a hidden smile.
She is more than huge, she is blatantly contradictory.
She’s American-ish, but Japanesey;
Familiar but exotic;
Traditional but wildly avant garde.;
Savoring but guzzling;
Giddily young but staidly elderly.
Near Shinjuku station it’s girls in blue jeans
And tiny kimono-clad matrons popping into Starbucks.
This immigrant from Seattle sits amid metallic, glitzy structures
And Times Square shaming electric signage.
There is no downtown but a dozen downtowns
Strung like beads around the circling Yamanote Line.
We jump on and off like locals, sampling each one.
Ikebukuro, Ueno, Okachimachi, Akihabara .
Later the bullet train pulls into Shin-Yokohama,
Long, low and unapologetically futuristic.
It’s the 6:00 o’clock bound for Kyoto.
We grab a Mc Donalds before boarding.
A few blocks away, in a tranquil garden
A herron dips its beak
And sends the moon gyrating .