Tourist

By Sam Willetts Sam Willetts
Warsaw, October: rose-madder by four,
the soldierly grey boulevards slippery

with tickets to winter. After forty years rebuilding,
the Old Town is like this beautiful girl I knew

whose face was wheel-broken in a crash,
and remade so well it was hard to say how

she looked wrong. I’d brought two questions here—
holding them as if they might slip: who were

my mother’s people? Where did they die?
In an attic-archive—deep card indexes, ink turned lilac

with age—I handed my questions to a love-laborer
in a yarmulke; with sad palms and a shake

of the head he regretted that any answers now
lay probably beyond our reach. So

I abandoned questing and went back to tourism;
joined the passeggiata, drank black tea, got stickied

under sooty lime trees, saw boisterous children,
all knees and elbows, skyline-capering

on the wall at the river-divide. Beyond
their frail silhouettes against the petrol dusk

huge cranes were moving, courtly, confident,
building another new Warsaw across the Vistula.


Source: Poetry (February 2010).

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2010
 Sam  Willetts

Biography

Sam Willetts's first poetry collection is New Light for the Old Dark (April 2010, Jonathan Cape / Random House London). His work has appeared in TLS, LRB, Granta, Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

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Poems by Sam Willetts

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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