The Tourist From Syracuse

One of those men who can be a car salesman or a tourist from Syracuse or a hired assassin.
— John D. MacDonald

You would not recognize me.
Mine is the face which blooms in
The dank mirrors of washrooms
As you grope for the light switch.

My eyes have the expression
Of the cold eyes of statues
Watching their pigeons return
From the feed you have scattered,

And I stand on my corner
With the same marble patience.
If I move at all, it is
At the same pace precisely

As the shade of the awning
Under which I stand waiting
And with whose blackness it seems
I am already blended.

I speak seldom, and always
In a murmur as quiet
As that of crowds which surround
The victims of accidents.

Shall I confess who I am?
My name is all names, or none.
I am the used-car salesman,
The tourist from Syracuse,

The hired assassin, waiting.
I will stand here forever
Like one who has missed his bus —
Familiar, anonymous —

On my usual corner,
The corner at which you turn
To approach that place where now
You must not hope to arrive.

– Donald Justice


There’s something about this poem that makes me think of a sunlit afternoon darkening ominously. There are things that we know about life – bad things happen, death is around the corner – that we don’t acknowledge to ourselves as we go about our mundane lives. Mundane – there’s a word that means, literally, ‘typical, of this world’.
Most of us only know of spies and international intriuge through books and movies, and yet there are people out there who do this in their real lives – that’s their mundane, everyday thing.
More about Donald Justice here and here.

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