Portrait of The City in Gray

Oh I have stayed too long with this mistress,
over long in her arms have I lain
for she no longer coos to console me.
Her faded charms are now sweaty and plain

Once, long ago, she wooed me
with a song pledging her love and her heart.
She sang of parades of beautiful people
while strumming  on a golden harp.

Neon signs, winking lights, tinted windows,
all seemed so dazzling and joyous before,
but now show to me my mistress who looks
like a painted and gaudy old whore.

Her smile is a smirk in the daylight,
her rosy cheeks…thick with rouge in the sun.
Her dimples become wrinkles each dawning.
Her veil of lies becomes a prison for some.

Oh I have seen her plastic and cement canyons
where concrete walls cover skeletons of steel
and the grim faced people who wait there
for Sysiphus to return from the hill.

Night sirens go screaming through these canyons,
like vultures on carrion scent,
singing the song of the city
telling of free hands never taken nor lent.

The city’s parks, like red herrings, remind me
of the colors on a coral snake’s back;
trying to hide the vicious intent from the mouse
while the serpent coils to attack.

Her brown skies lie heavy on drooping trees.
Rotting benches and yellow grass for the weary.
Dull eyed sparrows sit coughing on limbs
chirping low , “Not to be. Not to be.”

Surely  no weed is more hardy,
no  condor more impassioned to fly,
than a city, so ruthless in its growing,
is determined to swell and multiply.

In symbiotic relationship the suburbs grow
around the city with row  upon row
upon row upon row of rows and rows
of sweet little, petite little, houses in rows.

But all these sweet little, petite little houses
are not homes, for they are not as they seem,
they are funeral urns for the walking dead
with their stillborn hopes and dying dreams.

Grant Wood misplaced that infamous couple;
no farmhouse behind them should stand
for those faces were carved in the city
devoid of the essence of man.

I ache for the song of the open field
where the harmony of land and sky
is never muted by smog or the factory whistle,
where the rhythm of nature is the binding tie.

Yet here I lay passive in the arms of this mistress
knowing full well the price of each moment’s delay.
I must leap from her bed without paying too dearly
or stay and finish her portrait in gray.
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Submitted by Snodeel on June 06, 2021

Modified on April 28, 2023

2:08 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 2,267
Words 427
Stanzas 14
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Discuss the poem Portrait of The City in Gray with the community...

  • ritchiechelle
    This is fabulous. I especially loved the first eight verses.
    LikeReply1 year ago
    • Snodeel
      Thank you so much for reading and your kind comments. May I ask if I lost you after the first 8 stanzas and if so why.....did it go to dark?
      LikeReply1 year ago
  • Snodeel
    Thank you Robert!
    LikeReply1 year ago
  • robertrad2021
    Awesome personification. I love this poem.
    LikeReply1 year ago
  • Teril
    A city is a worthy metaphor as well as a concrete reality, a full-on sensory explosion. This poem brings to mind so many stages in life, when one becomes disillusioned with the very places and people that were once captivating. Excellent writing, rhythm, rhyme and images. 
    LikeReply1 year ago
    • Snodeel
      thank you for your insightful review...that is exactly what I was going for! And of course, thank you for reading it
      LikeReply1 year ago
  • AIDA
    Wow, what a beautiful and thought-provoking poem! Your language and imagery are truly exquisite, and you do a fantastic job of conveying the complex emotions and conflicting feelings that come with being both entranced and disillusioned by the city. I particularly love your use of metaphors and symbolism to paint a vivid picture of the city and its impact on those who inhabit it.

    In terms of improvement, one suggestion I have is to perhaps break up the poem into shorter stanzas. While the current structure is certainly engaging, it can be a bit difficult to follow at times, especially when trying to identify individual lines or ideas. Breaking it up into smaller chunks could make it easier for the reader to follow along and fully appreciate each element of the poem. Additionally, consider playing around with punctuation and formatting to help guide the reader through the various shifts in tone and imagery.

    Overall, though, I think you have something really special here. Your descriptive language, clever use of wordplay, and evocative imagery combine to create a truly captivating piece sure to linger in the minds of readers long after they've finished reading. Keep up the fantastic work!
    LikeReply 11 year ago


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"Portrait of The City in Gray" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 15 Jul 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/101999/portrait-of-the-city-in-gray>.

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