The Woman on the Metro Gives me Back my Handkerchief
you can be wronged
for no reason
but never without
cause. The grievance takes shape
as the years rain past,
an insult to which you have never given voice
prying your gills apart. There it is: injustice,
its bites light as helium, its belly ballooning. Every
night it floats above you,
every night its shadow bumps and rasps
against your dreams.
It slashes like a marlin,
it cuts like a swordfish, a needlefish,
spokes of pain open inside me
like an umbrella, like a stickleback — boys call them tittlebats —
or porcupine fish:
what was once a splinter
darted into my body on a tide of silence
and now I am skewered, now
I am coming apart.
10K, or: You Look Like the Back of a Bus in that Skirt
I suppose in the olden days a girl would just
go stumbling through the forest
and cry her silly heart out under the trees:
but now a woman goes skittering through the park
at 7 kilometres an hour,
and sobs — you’ve never heard such sobbing!
To be like this your whole life,
to long so completely to be the best ever version of yourself
and see it all turn to shit every time,
just a big fat endless nothing…
Here is some old bag out walking her miniature schnauzer,
staring right at me, obviously
Christ, I want to smash her fucking face in!
But it’s not proper for a lady to talk like this — so says
some dribbling poet. “Ladies
don’t go bursting open all over the place, they keep
their fluids in their bodies, they don’t splash them around,
I’d smash his fucking face in too. I’m more than
capable of that, I’m strong, I’m
don’t you look at me when I’m weak.
What do you want to go there for?
Haven’t you seen stones before?
— The father, thirty years ago. His child,
a child of the Soviet era,
clutches a book in a kitchen, in a village,
dizzy with joy.
Gods, Graves and Scientists, it was called.
The child keeps crying, I want to go to Greece, to Athens!
Exposed so long to the radiation of books,
their hearing’s gone.
The father keeps repeating, Haven’t you seen stones before?,
his shirt splattered from mortaring
Where walls’ shadows meet, sheltered from the wind: the child.
The child’s fury.
Greece, says the father, is impossible for us.
Mountains of stones and shutters of iron
have closed our kholkoz off from Greece forever.
After the winds of thirty years have blown those walls away
and the sun has melted the iron, I float
in a plane, unmoored;
I sit on a stone bench
on the Acropolis in the heart of Athens
and I can’t stop crying: stones, stones,
why won’t you speak to me?
This dusty, thirsty child of the Soviet era,
this woman of the free world… A drop of sweat
smudges what I’ve written.
I have travelled so long to get here, but the stones refuse to speak,
or else their message is lost on me, scraped flat
by the rusty planes of cicadas.