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Saint Francis built this city for surfers and heroes.
He brought ships from royal fleets
to these quiet bays covered with fog.
The Spanish jumped onto the shore,
Russian sailors came by rowboats and Chinese prospectors for gold
stitched the night with lanterns, surprised by the shadows in the hills.
And each church they established was like a weary voice —
there will be enough freedom for everyone, as long as you don’t keep it all for yourself,
share the bread and coal during winter,
and look at the sun through the glass bottle of the ocean.
There is enough gold for everyone,
but only the bravest will find love!

It takes a thousand years
to dig out the bounty of the earth.
It takes a thousand nights to learn the ways of the local fish,
a thousand words to commune with eternity.
The plague descends on the holiday port,
young girls and teenagers follow it out of churches,
daring, golden skinned, full of their first secrets
and Catholic hymns —
share your books and bright-colored clothes,
share your coffee and fruit.
This city is protected by moats and fortified walls,
so much joy has been brought here from all over the world,
what shall we do with it,
what shall we do with it?

I know Saint Francis protects her,
when she appears at conferences and in libraries,
protects her every time she walks through the shops,
counting the pennies she has to live on,
protects her from enemies, protects her from friends.
He is annoyed when I advise him,
share your patience with her,
share your weariness, share your joy,
who else can she rely on in this city, if not you,
who else can we talk about in this life, if not her,
who else are we to protect,
who else can we envy,
Francis?

© Serhiy Zhadan

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