from the paris review; poems

i’ve been receiv­ing newslet­ters from the paris review for a while now, and one of the  nice things about that is that it includes a dai­ly poem. i would say that the poet­ry is of … ahem … vari­able qual­i­ty, and some of it i find com­plete­ly unre­lat­able. but giv­en my inter­est in urban­ism, archi­tec­ture and cities, my curios­i­ty was piqued by the first of these (below). — i should per­haps add that my master’s grad­u­a­tion the­sis was on post­mod­ernism and nos­tal­gia

by Donna Stonecipher,

Mod­el City [1]

It was like tak­ing the train across a bor­der between two coun­tries with dis­parate lan­guages, one built like a fortress and one slinky as a riv­er, and think­ing about how order­ly lan­guages are, keep­ing with­in bor­ders.

*

It was like antic­i­pat­ing how the sta­tion-names will change abrupt­ly from words stout as fortress­es to words slinky as rivers right after the bor­der, as if each lan­guage lived in a world untrou­bled by the exis­tence of the oth­er. It was like cross­ing the bor­der and try­ing to feel it under­neath the train, to feel this instance of divi­sion, of order, of force, of fate. But the bor­der was an abstrac­tion order­ing oth­er abstrac­tions, like stout and slinky lan­guages.

*

It was like notic­ing the train had stopped at the bor­der and see­ing a man out­side with the wrong pass­port appre­hend­ed by police—and remem­ber­ing the lux­u­ry of for­get­ting the brute order­ing force of abstrac­tions.

Mod­el City [2]

It was like going to see “The Unbuilt City,” an exhi­bi­tion of archi­tec­tur­al plans and mod­els for trans­form­ing your city—grids, tow­ers, mon­u­men­tal min­istries, vast plazas—that ulti­mate­ly came to noth­ing.

*

It was like wan­der­ing through the exhib­it look­ing at futur­is­tic draw­ings that fig­ure the era­sure of the nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry four-sto­ry archi­tec­ture you love, and feel­ing pleased the plans came to noth­ing.

*

It was like tak­ing note of a resis­tance in your­self to the futur­is­tic, the futuresque, the future—while not deny­ing a cer­tain nos­tal­gia for anti­quat­ed visions of the world of tomor­row.

*

It was like look­ing at the futur­is­tic mod­els and think­ing about the unbear­able­ness of the present and real­iz­ing there are two kinds of peo­ple: those who can’t wait for the future, and those who can’t wait for the past.

Mod­el City [3]

It was like mov­ing into an apart­ment for the sum­mer fur­nished only with a bed, a desk, a chair, and an old “world” radio in a brown case, its lumi­nous dial turn­ing to Moscow Berlin Paris Skop­je Budapest Lon­don and Tang­i­er.

*

It was like lying in bed at night next to the world-radio, etched with dis­tant cities, which now only gets local sta­tions, and imag­in­ing lying in bed in Skop­je in the mid­dle of the last cen­tu­ry lis­ten­ing to music from Paris.

*

It was like lying under the open win­dow think­ing the apart­ment is not big enough, the sum­mer is not big enough, the world is not big enough for the world-radio with its etched cities and its lumi­nous ideals.

*

It was like leav­ing the apart­ment at summer’s end and sneak­ing the world-radio out in your suit­case, for you know that only you under­stand the radio’s faith in a grander, more world­ly world—and its inabil­i­ty to trans­mit it.

Mod­el City [4]

It was like tak­ing a taxi one night through the streets of your adopt­ed city to get home to your rent­ed apart­ment and pass­ing new hotel after new hotel in every neigh­bor­hood.

*

It was like see­ing the word hotel echo­ing through the city and feel­ing the urge to take off your clothes in the taxi, and then to see how much if any of your skin you can take off, to get down to some­thing you own.

*

It was like want­i­ng to take off every­thing, clothes, skin, down to the heart work­ing inside your body, and think­ing about how our bod­ies are hotels for guests we may know but have nev­er seen.

*

It was like arriv­ing home and enter­ing your rent­ed apart­ment like the hotel guest that you are at heart, know­ing that you own noth­ing, not even the vacant body you offer to your loved one.

• “The Ruins of Nos­tal­gia 42” by Don­na Stoneci­pher, pub­lished in the paris review issue no. 222, Fall 2017

Love
by Rad­mi­la Laz­ić

I sharp­ened knives
All night.
To wel­come you
In the bril­liance of their blades,
And among them,
My love sparkles
For your eyes only.

—Trans­lat­ed from the Ser­bian by Charles Sim­ic

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