Saturday, August 8, 2009


I could breathe a little again,
In Poland,
Here in its heart, in Warsaw,
After weeks of Russia,
The poverty and punishment
Of camping and traveling.
And of you
Constantly scolding
And demanding~~
Worrying and wearing my soul.

We had crossed over and
Suddenly there was light
And color and music.
The streets of the Old Town
Were amber and amethyst.
Brightly painted carts with
Vendors hawking
Mushroom pierogi
And clothes
And crafts.

And Chopin.
Buskers on corners
Strummed and
Sang Preludes
Chiming and sliding
Off cobblestones.
Shop doors were
Propped open with Etudes.
Window boxes
With Nocturnes.

You even relaxed;
Let loose some
And changed money
On the Black Market.
Lech Walesa
And the Workers
Were in the streets.
Poland was on the brink:
Disaster or a Brilliant Future.

You took me to the finest
Restaurant on the Square,
In the Stare Miasto.
Wrought iron double eagles,
Warm sable balustrades
That led up stairs
To linen and candles,
Tables overflowing,
Dark and lush
With grapes and roses.
Smoked eel and sturgeon,
Tiny pickled vegetables
And caviar.
Borscht in porcelain.
Roasted pheasant.
Crepes with sweet cheese
And black sour cherries.

And, Yes,
The workers were in the streets,
But we were high above
And warm with wine
And plush damask.
Charmed, charmed.

The buffalo grass vodka,
Was brought out,
Liquid vanilla
Threaded with a brace
Of bitterness,
And the music began.

Another Nocturne,
Soft piano
And then the high luring cry
Of the gypsy violin,
Trilling in a minor key.

I was full up
And edging with tears,
As you began in on me again,
Telling me how I was seduced,
As though I were a show,
A story,
Something you had made up.

I could not bear the thought
Of you breaking the spell,
You knew me,
No doubt.
I had no protection.
My soul was bare.
But, I could not have you
Mock my soft, romantic,
Sentimental heart.
You were trying to be tender,
But, your words were too rough
For me,
I could not hold their weight.
As your hand reached for mine,
I begged some little brass groszy
Off you and ran for the refuge
Of the powder room.

The gilt mirrors and the marble.
I could not look.
I knew my face was red
And wrecked with tears.
All around me
It was choking the air itself,
A thick perfume of little lilies.
The longing, the luxury.
Why was every sweetness
Only a moment?

I slipped a coin into
The old woman attendant’s
Flower-ringed dish
As she handed me the gentle towel
With a soft smile.
And there she was,
Small in her small chair,
The old woman who knew,
Who had gathered up the harvest of nights
And days,
Silently in her eyes.
How many songs,
How many lines,
She held in her heart
That hummed
So deeply
Beneath her white blouse,
Her little white sweater.
Quietly, quietly
Telling me
It was all
all right,