In Cities, Be Alert

1You may hear that your heartbeat is uneven
2and let new tension climb around your shoulders,
3thinking you've found the trick for going mad.
4But try to keep a grip on where you are.
5Remember: all around you is pure city;
6try to stay alert. On the wide streets,
7so empty late at night, streaking in glass,
8the color of an alley, or the fall
9of a sideways flicker from a neon sign
10may utterly and briefly disconcert you --
11but as you go, you'll find that noise is worse.
12Prepare for noise. But never scream. Even tensing
13ears too far in advance can sharpen sirens,
14and as for horns .... When you're back to
15your normal rhythm after such encounters,
16just try to stay alert. You'll never know
17exactly who is coming up behind you,
18but the sudden movement of pedestrians
19will finally, of course, be what disarms you.
Publication Notes: 
Eve (Brownsville, Oregon: Story Line Press, 1997): 24. Princeton University Library PS 3556 .I448
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Special Copyright: 

<b>This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Annie Finch or Story Line Press permissions department.</b>