With Love from the Balkans

June 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

When you wrote me from Dubrovnik, on a crazy keyboard that interchanged the letters z and y, I googled the city and imagined the way the Adriatic sun looked on your shoulders, the light brown color your hair turned to when struck with gold. I wondered which quarter, among the rows and rows of red tiled roofs, housed the quaint little computer cafe that charged you 5 euros an hour, where you drafted a funny little email to ask me out, again, from a million miles away, with the only letters you had.

Do you think of me in the daytime? In all the clay and cobblestone, on the cakey island ground wet and dried repeatedly, alternately, by the sea and the sun? Do you think of me as you stand beneath your 3:00 shadow in front of the city’s oldest cathedral, licking an overpriced berry popsicle? You never knew church bells could sound so much like seagulls, singing in the stolen languages of pirates. Does my name, written in cursive on the side of a small Greek speedboat, make you think of home?

Or do you think of me at night, when Dubrovnik is wearing her reddest dress, with flowers in her hair and a long-stemmed glass in her hand? Do you imagine my lips, stained as yours are with red wine and an urge to do one thing that scares you, every day? In Asia, kissing me was not in your vocabulary, but neither was placa, or raznjici, or longing. How thin is the line between yes and maybe? How long before you run out of the fact of my face, my words, my threadbare stories, and move into the fiction of my hands? This world is a lush green forest of possibility, encroaching more and more every year on the polluted cities and industrial districts of reality, vines wrapping their legs around the rustiest pipes. It is impossible not to have set foot in it.

You sent me a postcard in your familiar handwriting, perhaps in a slightly drunken stupor that exchanged the word love for dancing. But it’s the thought that counts. And maybe in yours, we were running down the plaza late at night, hair and white dresses blowing in the wind. You squeezed my hand at the southern entrance of the Old Town, and planted a kiss on my cheek. There was never any dancing. Everything moved in slow-motion, like we were under the Adriatic Sea, and I bought you a bouquet of yellow flowers that smelled like an old library.

I am writing you back. “Why are all Dubrovnik’s streets so shiny? Tell me about all the wars that were fought for that city.”



May 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

The quail egg inside my discount dumpling
is rubbery and tough,
and tastes like a mass burial.
But I don’t want to know why.

There is a familiar old man,
sitting by himself across the room
from what appears to be
his bodyguard.

He looks rich and tired,
like childbirth had taken
his favorite wife.
He, too, doesn’t seem to understand

the waiter’s distant Chinese.
All I know is he used to write poetry.
He debones his fish and stares
down the aisle of time.

Isn’t this the tragedy of man?
That we live in a landlocked city
and write thousands of poems
about the ocean.


May 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s not like you imagine yourself
in the arms of every stranger you pass
on the street–
just the ones that smile at you.


May 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

I want you to talk to me about death.
Let me run my fingers
through the cobwebs on your clavicles,
as you recite the drawn-out histories of all
the tiny little tragedies
you have had to endure, alone, in secret,
and all the larger ones,
catastrophic enough to merit
the division of sorrows.

But tell me more about the quiet ones,
the ones nobody ever asks about,
like pieces of shattered glass tangled
in the soft fabric of your hair,
always mistaken for diamonds.
I want to know about the things
that make appearances in your dreams,
I want to know what you think this all means.

Undress your logic
in the middle of this night sea,
lay it on a dry rock shaped
like a clenched fist,
and lose yourself in the black water,
your knees buckling in an embrace
of creatures of the deep.

I know you’re scared. I know that you worry
about life after death. But so did you
over that room left unlocked, the one
you later found filled from floor to ceiling
with fresh flowers.

This means there is kindness in strangers.
This means that sometimes the rain falls
at exactly the right moment.

I may not have the answers
but words make me bold
and I daresay heaven will want us,
if only for our laughter,
yours like a trumpet and mine
like a tambourine,
like nets sewn from first kisses,
cast over a stony world.

So tell me about the dirt
beneath your nails.
Because even if I don’t see it,
I know it’s there.


April 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s Friday night and
I know you’re out there, somewhere,
just like I am in here, somehow,
alone in a diner facing the street.

Do you think of me sometimes?
Or are you still too busy
kissing a body
only good enough to keep you warm?

People say the best couples
are those headed in the same direction

but I never liked the word couple,
which means two, which means nothing

cause you and I don’t lead parallel lives,
entirely compatible but destined
to never meet

nor are we perpendicular
forming a cross
touching once
before pursuing the opposite ends of all space.

Baby you and I are not lines on a plane,
but circles like planets made of stars
circles that neither begin nor end
circles that pull together like magnets
groping blindly in the large darkness
of the world.

Do you think of me sometimes?
Do you wonder about the length of my fingers?
The sound of my laugh?

Because I can hear yours from across this avenue
wider than a million little streets
filled with the voices of an entire population
where yours stands out like a bell
like the face of a missing child in a Sunday crowd.

You and I will never be a couple
only good enough to keep you warm

You and I will be lovers
with bodies like wood,
our friction, a fire,
the only light in this pitch black forest
keeping us apart,
in this forest we will burn down.

I know you’re out there somewhere,
because I can only write this poem
so many times

before I need a face
to build from the voice

lips to construct
around the laugh

a body to keep me warm.

There is a man out on the street,
watching his favorite movie through the glass,
and I only want to touch
to hold your hand.

There are pools of light
in the puddles on the sidewalk
and maybe where you are,
there is rain.

This is the part in the movie
where the blips on the screen are closing in
hearts racing, action building

and if you could see fate from a satellite
you would see us running, our bodies hurtling forward,
toward the same light.

On Universalities

April 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tell me where it all starts,
this thing called being human.

With chemistry
In the fusion of gametes
At the development of fingernails
After your first kiss by your parents’ front door
When you lose your virginity
All the nights spent waiting that follow

What is the color
of the sound of our voices
drowning each other out?

And if you could paint the landscape
of collective emotion,
would it be a golden plain,
a mountain range,
or a cold, rocky beach?

Put your fingers here
and show me,
where is the pain?
where is the pressure?
Does your language have enough words
for all the possible permutations of pleasure?

am I
can I be a part of
when I have nothing to offer

except this funny predisposition
to have a heart broken
over and over

The Quiet Friendship No One Knows We Have

February 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Don’t take this the wrong way, you say,
as your warm fingers melt
the cold outline of my skin

as the wind blows our laughter
across the same urban sprawl.

You say, don’t take this the wrong way,
your pregnant silences
are just cracks we fall into

when you let yourself go.

But you are a glorious orange sunset
from the quiet window of the kitchen
in the neighborhood I grew up in

and I am only a smile
caught thinking about itself.

Don’t take this the wrong way,
but I am taking this
the only way
I know how.