Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sunday Poem

If you were lucky, you said, by the end of the night
we would have the money for a holiday
on Evia or Alonissos, on Thassos
or Halkidiki—or we could even go to Crete.
All New Year's Eve you beat men at cards—
one by one they exited the game. 
I sat back at the bar and watched
and thought of the night we had met,
when you stated you foresaw deaths
then tried to forget—the neighbour, the relative,
the stray kitten you introduced to a mother
and her brood that hissed it away. 
And you told me you were a thief. I admitted
I, too, had stolen things—for a time—
but now to find metaphors was to pocket
new money. I wanted to steal a thing
from its class and marry it to an alien other.
You nodded at that—all contradiction, 
calculating, vicious in an instant,
yet frightened and soft-hearted
in a way you had to hide. People either died on you
or deserted you. But I had no choice—
I had to stay to see the constant startled look
in your green eyes, to see you perform 
your ritual behind half-closed kitchen door
with olive oil and floating flame
to keep away the evil eye, to see you dab
holy water on your throat in crazily driven taxis,
to see how you stood as at an interface
where gods and goddesses appeared. 
Nicotine addict, gambler, who thieved
everywhere, who also gave without thinking,
you foresaw nothing of the thief
who came for you yourself. Or did you?
Every holiday you took, you might have half-meant
to lose him in a lit street. That startled look, 
you sensing he had begun his work in you—
the way you somehow knew what cards
were in players' hands. What I knew was the cutting
of the New Year's Day cake going wrong,
the coin wrapped in waxed paper not to be had
by you or me that year—and then, not any year.

From The Hundred Lives (Quattro Books, 2015) by Russell Thornton

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