Not an apostrophe,
Or the lyric of a wandering Romantic,
Or an echo of Whitman’s passionate catalogues.
Just Cambridge, on a Fall afternoon.
Before the trees turn and lawns of Harvard
are still green,
And the air is sharp with the promise of coolness.
Clapboards and lanes recall
A time of pewter and muslin and hand-blown glass.
And the Charles River, dotted with white sails,
curls slowly under its bridges.
Why do you call me at each summer’s end?
What draws me to your streets and Square?
I remember when Western Avenue held a mystery for me.
I looked at it as it arched away into other
And I wanted to follow it forever.
Hidden, hidden, hidden,
In modern brick and old stone,
In small cafes and campus quads,
Revelations of intellect and energy,
vigorous, yet measured.
I would walk past domed MIT, down
Massachusetts Avenue to the Square:
A pilgrimage to a citadel of knowledge
that promised to transcend
All I had known
And all I was to know.
Are you memory or regret?
Across the river, elegant townhouses brace
against the salt air,
And the shadows of cast-iron statues
Slant across parks and streets.
Cambridge still charms.
Shipbuilders and whalers and candlemakers
Came to Boston,
And flung their strength up and out
In glass and steel.
But Cambridge still remains
Itself, in grace and reflection,
A Yankee meditation on Continental traditions.
The green-gold air of Fall reminds me,
Once again Cambridge draws we to is avenues and streets,
To images I cannot grasp.
And I remember other Falls, their youthful yearnings walk with me,
Reflected in casement windows,
Echoed in broad New England accents.
To be part of it.
To wonder at the history of darkened spires,
To measure my life in books,
October is the spur that moves me,
Once again, I yearn, and go,
Once again I walk and gaze,
At my repository of might-have- beens.
Cambridge, on a Fall afternoon.