uncertain cities

words and sequences of them by Rhett Davis


From a distance, things seem so appealing, but the closer I get, the uglier they appear. The bad poet in me suggests that they are merely holding up a mirror. The bad poet in me is always saying these kind of things. The things that my writing professors would tell me are ‘on the nose’. Sometimes I am nothing but the bad poet. Sometimes, it is who I think I am. But back to the problem of proximity. It is in the detail of things that I find the least hope. I’m astigmatic, which renders the world gently fuzzy. When I first was given glasses, at sixteen, I was amazed at how the world really looked. Leaves came into focus when before they had been a pleasant green-yellow blur. I could recognise faces ten metres away. Years later, in Rome, I ate spaghetti with garlic, lemon, pecorino cheese, and pepper, and it was the best meal I have ever had. I was outdoors, and it was hot, and this city was the city I had dreamed of. There was dust in the air and graffiti everywhere. The streets were chaotic and noisy. A man walked out in the middle of traffic and swore at the cars. An ancient aqueduct wound through the neighbourhood of our hotel. It was enormous. Every day I found something I had never seen. It was a magnificent, living ruin. How long would it have taken to become too close? How long before the traffic irritated me? Before I hated the tourists, and the old buildings, and inefficiency of it all? How long before I would again have to retreat, and look on it from a safe distance?