The tourists

Who are these people for whom we invent excuses,
Put on a brave front, and beautify our slums?  Signs

In twenty languages clear their path through our confusion,
While we, in our own town, don’t know which way is up.

How could they know us by looking down through dark glass
From their high buses; after cropping out the dirt and poor

From careful snap-shots of our churches and galleries of art?
We give them whiskey duty-free, and fluffy toys, for consolation,

Rooms with views and service, air-conditioned day trips,
And large portions of deference, so that they will not have to see

What they have come here not to see.  (—Are paying not to see.)
And if one should ask, “Where am I?  What does all this mean?”

I have no doubt we would be kind and give correct directions,
Or give as best we could.  They are just like children:

They do not know what is ahead of them.  —And we don’t demur
Because of that. The meaning of travel is to endure.

Originally published in Walking the Dogs: the Pariah Press Anthology, 1993
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