I Saw a Woman Walking in the City

I Saw a Woman Walking in the City

Paris Review Interviewer to Truman Capote, Issue 16,1959:

“You recently published a book about the Porgy and Bess trip to Russia. One of the most interesting things about the style was its unusual detachment, …”

What would a detached narrator sound like?

She came out of the house with some definite purpose in mind. I knew it was Sondra because of the way she walked: like walking on too-far-apart paving stones, striding. It was a warm day, peaceful, with a sky the colour of blue-milk. A little breeze that seemed to say “See, I knew I could make it better.”

She seemed to be looking for something in the garden; or looking for a place to put something. Meanwhile I was looking for Billy. I was sure he was seeing Millie behind my back. He was my age, twelve, but still a baby in the way he sulked, inveigled, and pouted, but under my gaze he was under my power. I knew this. It felt good but it didn’t feel nice. I liked that. Sondra knew this about me and thought it scary. I thought she was a bitch. She liked being nice; I liked being feared.


I saw a woman walking in the city.

She walked with purpose,

with a face like intention.

Most other pedestrians were walking in the opposite direction,

against her, but making room, so focused was she,

and faster too; even those in front,

walking her way, swerved as they felt her striding down on their backs,

like radar.


I saw a youngster walking in the city

who saw the woman too and followed with intention.

Craved such purpose, such instruction, such rights

that if all the youth in the city followed suit

and made their goals her goal, their lives, her life, then

no matter what roots, what seeds, what route,

all would be well and content and precise,

even men.


So, there it is. A line in a magazine. A thought. A process. A piece of prose that didn’t work. Another piece of prose that didn’t work but turned into verse that did. A poem.

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