V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




I bought a cheap paperback on the stall
by a Quai du Pont Nuef.  Maxim Gorki’s Childhood
in French, the dream-like pleasure of
reading a language  half-apprehended—
so much I would miss and then the
small details striking like flint on
stone.  Fires in the winter, the dark wood
dachas, the cart on the rutted frozen road,
an accident, blood spilled in the linden wood
forests, where there were bodies buried,
abandoned from long seasons of war.  And in
between, the narrow shops I entered,
buying food that did not need to be prepared
or heated, wedges of hard cheese,
un-ripe apricots, bread that staled on the
windowsills of my attic room.  When I met
you that day on the street I had exhausted
these rituals of my aloneness.  I broke the crusts
and let them fall, not even crumbs for
pigeons, forgotten how to greet even
those with whom I had some small contact—
the women who sold the Herald Tribune,
the shaved-headed boy behind the grill of
the metro station.  No wonder when you took my
hand, touching your fingers to mine so briefly
I came undone.  And later in my attic room, your body
unfolding like a kingdom, your hands so cold
they almost hurt, which only made me want
them more acutely as those passages of Gorki
gifted me obscurely with the conviction that I
was entering a new country.

© by Sheila Black



Contributor's note
Next page
Table of contents
VPR home page

[Best read with browser font preferences set at 12 pt. Times New Roman]