Leipziger

I.

The snow falls slowly
On the snow-covered streets
Of Leipzig.

And the room you share
With the lady from Hong Kong
At the space hotel.

The insistent smells
Of the strange foods she keeps
On the balcony.

And the puffed-up sparrows
Chirping
In a park.

Where a young boy
Drinks beer, lights a cigarette
Awaits the summer.

And the man on the other side of the street
Who, if only for a moment,
Mistook you for someone else.

The children sliding down slopes
On sleds made of wood.
Surrounded by trees that could be anywhere in Europe.

And the graffiti on the statues
Of fallen angels
At the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst.

The young mothers strolling with their newborns
As white, as innocent,
As silent as snow.

The way people stamp
Their feet
Before entering a building.

All this seems very welcoming.

 

II.

As I Imagined her sitting
At the small round kitchen table.
A black kitten sleeping
In the palm of her hand
I wondered,
Does a blind man
Close his eyes
Upon sleeping?

On my knees at her feet
I stroked the kitten’s knitted brow
Feigning interest in the young unseeing thing
As an excuse to fleetingly touch
Her naked palm
Soft and warm
Her fingers
Full of splinters
From working on the bulwarks.

When suddenly the kitten
Walked across my arms
To rest its small paws
On my left shoulder.

For a moment I thought
Of opening the eyes of the kitten.
Changing its view of the world
Beyond repair.

A fitting punishment
For its treachery.

 

III. I’m in your room opening a window

I’m in your room (like a womb
Hoping to pick up some words
Looking for loot
Careful not to leave a mess
Erasing all traces.
Watching my palms grow
Sensing how my temples are formed
Still in touch with the thoughts
Of she who carries me
I know she fears
This time it will be too late
But I am convinced myself
Whenever I go
It will be too soon)

Opening a window.

 

IV.

Even with all its empty buildings,
With the debris, broken glass, sharp stones,
The thorny fruits she brings forth,
Even with the splintered windowsills of abandoned homes,
On a good summer day,
You can still see young girls,
Strolling barefoot,
On the streets of Leipzig.

 

V.

I think my feet have taken a liking
To the sidewalks of Wedding.
It is almost as if I know where I’m going.

But not just my feet, my thoughts too
Wrapped in thin layers of glass
They don’t mind to be shattered.

Not just my thoughts, Bernard too
Without saying a word he left the electrical box
That held our drinks and elbows

For a moment I thought he would take off
But heavy with dance
As if already translated

Into stone he fell down
Leaving a little stain of blood
Next to the unharmed bottle of beer

Still warm from his grasp.

 

VI.

A woman collecting
The seeds from the purple
Flowers surrounding
The bronze statue
In Friedenspark.

Saving them
In a little white envelope
To give to her grandchildren
To sow in her garden
The corner of her street

The wrappings around the Russian church,
The kites caught in the trees,
Fluttering in Protest,
When you were born all this was still a cemetery!

 

VII.

Mary!
You’ve come back
With different eyes
A different voice
Speaking a different tongue
But by God,
The very same ears!

Mary!
After seven months
You’ve come back
Without the scars
On your ankles, wrists, temples
But by God
I’ll find other places to kiss

Mary!
After seven months
You’ve come back from the dead
With the same tempered breath
The same sick air filling your lungs
But by God
Pass me by
Without as much as a word of thanks
As if unaware
It was my longing
That brought you back.

 

VIII.

Fighting for the knife,
O how they like to cut vegetables!

Put your ear to the Pentax,
Yes it still works!

Take a picture of the girls
Dancing in cotton dresses
Three red candles in each hand!

 

IX. -for Farina-

I said to her, (or wish I had said)
‘You know
When I was young
I wanted to be a baker.’

[Thinking,
I became part of a City
Ridden with empty buildings.]

Saying (or wishing I had said,)
‘Because I was always up so early
It only seemed convenient.

Of course as I grew up
I woke up later and later
And the dream waned’

[Thinking,
And high up
One of its humbled walls,
Found a little flower
Growing against all odds.]

Saying (or wishing I had said,)
‘But now…’

[Thinking,
What color!
What vigor!]

…’I think this old passion
Has taken a hold of me again.’

[Thinking,
I love you indefinitely.]

 

X.

So I told her about the abyss
And put in words it seemed a pit.
I told her about the dirt, the dark cold ground
That used to cover it.

I said: “I’ve felt so lost”
(But unlike the loss that seems to rid
This language of a deeper love
A theory a thought it is.

A longing twisted by a tongue
That never keeps its grasp, not fit
To speak my mind, distorted by
A body full of lies!)

I always thought “‘tis a lost cause
No shovel can fill her, still the hunger of the pit.
No hands bring back the man
I have tried so hard to miss.”

But now I say: “This abyss,
These words turned into a pit,
Let’s dig her out, let’s pitch the pit,
Let’s build a valley,
Have her past smeared out so far
You can almost see through it.

Let’s fill her up with water,
Have the young deer drink,
The tree roots sap, the lotus bloom in it.
And bathe ourselves, cleanse the histories
Wash the words from off the paper.
Change our skin and swim
As far as it can take us.”

 

XI.

I saw two boys
Staring at a red ball
Stuck in a tree.

So I picked up some rocks
And threw them at the branches.

After many a missed attempt
Finally,
With a soft thud,
As if it too sighed in relief,
The ball came

Loose.

The three of us broke out in cheers.
But after our triumph waned
And we were strangers again,
Separated by a language
And twenty years between us,

I thought,
Why have I stopped throwing
Rocks at the well
Kept silent machine on my desk.

Why have I stopped my fingers
From falling on her keys.
Made an effort
To rid myself
Of every opportunity
To strike a perfect chord:

A series of words
Describing thoughts
I had no idea
Were boiling deep inside of me
With unfathomable clarity.

 

XII.

I watch her as she
Cuts the ginger roots and carrots
In even slices,
Fries the shrimp,
Rinses the rice
Till the water runs clear.

I see her tired but beautiful face
See her slow measured movements
And suddenly realize
That, even though
(Among other feats of courage)
I would chow down whole
Apple chores as a young boy
This does not mean
(No matter what they told me)
That if you cut me open
At this very moment
You would find
The blossoming branches
Of an apple tree.

When I read this to her
She will say:
“That’s not true!
I did not cut them in even slices
In fact, I did not even cut the carrots
You did!
And what’s the deal
With that apple tree?
For all its blossoms
I don’t want its branches
This is not the poem you promised me”

To which I will reply:
Darling you are interrupting me again.
All I had left to say was
“But it’s a lie!”
You are right but you see it’s a poem
It needs to fit the rhythm
I have to be concise.

“And what’s with the apple tree?”
It stands for all the dormant thoughts
I never cared to discard
And poses the question
How to fill the empty space
After they are spirited away.

“You are talking about God again, aren’t you”
It’s not important
What I wanted to tell you
Is that I’ve come to hunger
For both you and your sushi
I long for your pho soup
But God knows how much I want to
Carry you to the bedroom
(Let the water boil
I don’t care if the walls turn black)
And make love to you.

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