By John Fuller b. 1937 John Fuller
In cities there are tangerine briefcases on the down-platform   
and jet parkas on the up-platform; in the mother of cities   
there is equal anxiety at all terminals.
    West a business breast, North a morose jig, East a false   
    escape, South steam in milk.

The centres of cities move westwards; the centre of the   
mother of cities has disappeared.
    North the great cat, East the great water, South the great   
    fire, West the great arrow.

In cities the sons of women become fathers; in the mother of   
cities the daughters of men have failed to become mothers.
    East the uneager fingers, South the damp cave, West the
    chained ankle, North the rehearsed cry.

Cities are built for trade, where women and men may freely   
through knowing each other become more like themselves;   
the mother of cities is built for government, where women   
and men through fearing each other become more like each   
other than they care to be.
    South the short, West the soap, North the sheets, East the   

In cities the church fund is forever stuck below blood heat; in   
the mother of cities the church is a community arts centre.
    West the Why-not, North the Now-then, East the End-
    product, South the Same-again.

In cities nobody can afford the price; in the mother of cities   
nobody dares to ask the price.
    North the telephone smile, East the early appointment,   
    South the second reminder, West the hanging button.

In cities the jealous man is jealous because he is himself in his   
imagination unfaithful; in the mother of cities the jealous man   
is jealous because he reads the magazines.
    East the endless arrival, South the astounding statistic,   
    West the wasted words, North the night of nights.

In cities we dream about our desires; in the mother of cities   
we dream about our dreams.

John Fuller, “Metropolitan” from Collected Poems, published by Chatto & Windus. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited,

Source: Collected Poems (1996)

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Poet John Fuller b. 1937


Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Prose Poem, Refrain, Mixed

 John  Fuller


A prolific poet, novelist, children’s writer, critic, and editor, John Fuller has written or edited nearly 50 books, including more than a dozen collections of poetry. Fuller was born in Kent, England, and his father was the poet Roy Fuller. John Fuller was mentored by W.H. Auden and also influenced by Eliot, Graves, and Stevens. His poetry displays a virtuosic ease within the constraints of formal, metered verse; it is a poetry . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries


Poetic Terms Prose Poem, Refrain, Mixed

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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