Letter to Nostalgia

City I once wore like a shawl
on my shoulders, the soft brown outlines
of your hills and valleys the first thing I saw
coming in at dawn on the lowland bus—
Where will I see again except in memory
such astonishing green, or the deep sapphire
of a sky outlining trees that push through sheer
outcroppings of rock? And it’s true, nothing
I’ve seen abroad holds a candle to this view:
early morning light glinting off rooftops,
the cry of bean curd vendors in the streets;
my children once, in their own youth, holding out
bowls by the gate for a taste of this sweet.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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  1. RETURN MAIL (After Letter to Nostalgia)

    City I once wore like a shawl/on my shoulders

    You left that shawl on a pine tree branch
    where I etched your name so you will return
    to see it grow with the tree. But you did not.

    It does not matter. You wear that old city
    on your shoulders like that green shawl
    I still keep in a wooden chest carved in Ifugao.

    Its ridges, its sunsets, its clay soil, the rocks
    shrouded now by sunflowers jutting through
    cracks and crevices lining the zigzag roads,

    the halloo of the terrace gleaners bursting
    into song at sundown: all sounds echoing
    through those mountain rims and alleys

    in the city, the Indian bazaars, the roadside
    bars, the cathedral overlooking the city like
    a muezzin singing from his minaret, its belfry

    our lighthouse, a beacon from the lowland
    refuge of white beaches and emerald seas,
    the redolent smell of pine at the city limit.

    I know you keep them now in the eyes
    of your children, in their laughter, and sighs
    when you draw the city’s face over your heart.

    —Albert B. Casuga
    05-18-11

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