Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Per-Verse Pleasure 2

For the Stranger

Carolyn Forché


Although you mention Venice

keeping it on your tongue like a fruit pit

and I say yes, perhaps Bucharest, neither of us

really knows. There is only this train

slipping through pastures of snow,

a sleigh reaching down

to touch its buried runners.

We meet on the shaking platform,

the wind's broken teeth sinking into us.

You unwrap your dark bread

and share with me the coffee

sloshing into your gloves.

Telegraph posts chop the winter fields

into white blocks, in each window

the crude painting of a small farm.

We listen to mothers scolding

children in English as if

we do not understand a word of it–

sit still, sit still.


There are few clues as to where

we are: the baled wheat scattered

everywhere like missing coffins.

The distant yellow kitchen lights

wiped with oil.

Everywhere the black dipping wires

stretching messages from one side

of a country to the other.

The men who stand on every border

waving to us.


Wiping ovals of breath from the windows

in order to see ourselves, you touch

the glass tenderly wherever it holds my face.

Days later, you are showing me

photographs of a woman and children

smiling from the windows of your wallet.


Each time the train slows, a man

with our faces in the gold buttons

of his coat passes through the cars

muttering the name of a city. Each time

we lose people. Each time I find you

again between the cars, holding out

a scrap of bread for me, something

hot to drink, until there are

no more cities and you pull me

toward you, sliding your hands

into my coat, telling me

your name over and over, hurrying

your mouth into mine.

We have, each of us, nothing.

We will give it to each other.

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