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Foreign Romance
by Suzann Kole

Amid this incalculable sorrow,
I am in love:
a broken man
re-members himself within
the vast family of things.
A single decade forces blood
into a lithe body of animate beginnings.
The rapids shift and shout in a
peccant narrative where
all day, broadcasts mimic news:
the orange bricked streets
on the port are a girding
isolation of idolatry and celebrated
post mortem industry.

Here, the holy war of high noon
is caught in a vapor lock of
piroghi and pork;
latke and rolahdin--
the fragrant shifts of love
shackle countries to a grid
of fundamental anxiety: shy--
a neighborhood on the verge of
shiksa and shyster;
Mac, mick and yenta in contention;
a creeding of pathos
indemnified by brands...
the nurture of scents resolving
into a national weaponry of
aphorism and slang identity.

I tire of trying to love--
you underneath the starch
of a petty coating; corporate callous--
pleading: "bare yourself to me",
cheeky, new, precocious beneath
the pallid band of professional
prowess--that lack of prescience
which marks order and misanthropy
in each measured breathing of
this casual catastrophe.

The white plume of a
doe's dash
signals alert --even here--
on this quiet island where
urbane static is muffled
by an encroaching ocean.
Everywhere rocks are dashed
by a caveat of white caps;
peaks of sea needling over
the callous of schist
in a rise of impalpable twilight.
In a dark, I plan the meal:
a contingency of tastes; a late
banter of colloquial bitters--grist
and brine implacably entwined; homed
in a gridlock of ethnic division.


Imagine the Port. Rain,
the chrome veil of evening,
wavering amid the fronts.
I am shamed by the kind features
of your sunken heart;
your swollen eyes--tributes
to a raging sea. Backlash,
washed across a water
of sin...the way lies and fruit
fuse you to a bridge immemorial;
a weightless tapestry of sound;
a bulk of season--with balsam.
And recall the scent of dust
and poverty, burning in the fry pan:
aged semolina and
a package of green beans.

This is youth: the hut in the cupboard
from Alsace-Lorraine--a tiny portent
of temperature, told within
wooden measures of souvenir:
a volley of carved dolls: miniature minds
in the midrash of kitchen.
You are kind. The water boils
along the afternoon. Pork and barley
fall from bones in a stew
of morning...minced with hunger,
and humbled by obligation.
The tight aluminum pot: your cast iron.
The brackish man who rests his palm
on your pleated sleeve and
sells eggs--his salted words.


What to say of these fragrant years--
boats and letters on central docks
and underwoods. How we chewed
the gristle of schmaltz while spewing
Polish and spooning a balm
of magenta borscht. Beets and batter...
those ghostly boats.
Eat me: your tyranny of years--
coughing the blood of viremic distress.
Letters: the active wrestle
of dreams--exploding
the linen sheets of our wet sail.
Can we love now--
in the quiet of death, where
your body groans--indiscreet,
in its distillations of hunger and unrest;
in the haze of this undergrowth?

There were thin wastes--
potatoes--stripped of meaning;
crisped in Wesson; without salt
or cream. We ate dough and
donated time to clean --a pristine life.
Greet me: the fervor
of your private bleating and
savage dress; the winter of
hard labor--knuckled-under
ham-hocks; jammed with
jellies put by; meringue-in-multiples...
glazed umber, along
the wide peeling of window ledge;
the pantry seat; the garden spot
with a taunting of dahlias and
dawn--you were not careful...
nor were you kind.


A pastiche of sound: the conversation
ricocheting in my shell-
shocked head; attempts
to make sense
of intolerable beauty
which suggests me awake.
Fallout: these curses of home-
the unsettled language of truth and tongue;
the booze; the trenchant scent
of your rum and romance.
Remember the boys? Standard Oil...
and the line of boarders
with avocados...and
brief Bermudas?"
Those large seeds; your life,
in a torment of glory, your man
in his training, and,
a husband, at sea.

What now: a cortege of lace,
of small walks to the folds
of avenue, and a gutted store?
This ribbon of road that
held us in tension--my shock
of resentment, your steaming
confection of brothel
and dementia: a Saturday
of confusion and betrayals?

What of the pies
and long-cooked meats;
the dense scent of love--twisted...
and your wrinkled body of desire?
You insisted me through
the fussing shadows; obscured portraiture
mother of god, brandishing scepter
and spatula, both, and hope--
hard boiled to a stock
of marrow; gelled even
in this high temperature
of early calling…
and quick release.

Take this dust: these strings
of memory which entwine the
residual body of harsh dream.
Take them...and all the dirt
of a checkered neighborhood; and
all the scents of genetic compromise--
an enterprising union gone bust; vanquished
in the small tumbles of broken weed
that line the waters of
wounded refuse and oil spills,
breaking wind along the boardwalk
of highway and black sea.

Take this solitary grief
where I beach my horror,
and bereave the small fruit
of longing: your heart,
the haunt of meaning and menace;
a marred frame of reference.


1. A Shiftless History

The wound between my legs
Pleats a dark memory
Buried in the brushed cotton
of a sheltering dark.
Your rich body
heathered now in my mind
through the reticence of decades,
Swarms the early hours...
in a curl of grief and gall;
Inextricable fragrance:
The musk of tobacco--
ingenious facsimile;
redolent image...committed
to memory.

This shiftless history:
Everything that has burdened
and conferred me,
ceases to perish...
Even as one season
heals into another;
A place mislaid
between expectation and exorcism.

The fruits of our hours rust
on the chilled knobs of orchard.
Such tenacity...remembered
and diminished in a single tear.
Here, curled alone
around the apparition of desire,
language affords scant shelter:
The truth of a smothered life;
the glib mouth of it.
Your lips.
Webbed in a bristle of grief;
your lies
warping the body
in an unwitting posture
of truth and transparency.

And the nights: Listening
for reckless incantations
on the two-way radio
of your dreary dementia:
a garble of men
grafting determinants
onto the mind of your misdirection:
Voice of yellow cab
talking streets and stations.

There is a small mind jettisoned
in those dark folds of directive.
Imagine yourself in the urban circles
of matrimony; betrayed, now
by dead voices held captive
in the hull of your barge-mind;
decades of annihilation
by one swift sniper
on a congested causeway...
between the daily grind
and the eternal return.

Your life: halted; faltering...
under a broad band of South Boston;
consider the baby...
And the way you rocked her...
sunken head against the bloat
of grief and a garrulous silence.

Now, imperturbable and toothless,
The peat of your buried album
Pages the night street
in a crackling hiss
of wet pavement and
seasonal weeping.

2. Street Triage

Your hand etched
in a poultice of memory.
Those cerulean mornings
among the monuments;
the rust of war:
You...in your ring of hope;
moored to the distant shore:
A deft worker;
A boy in dickies trying
to kick the habit.
The cragged floor and yellowed tiles;
The soft of your r-o-l-e...
and feathered sheath.
Who would have suspected the face
of that small day
to end bleeding...
My lips
pressed hard
on your overcoat;
The cold ;
The old bushes--
stilled by autumn...
and ripe fruit.

3. Husks Of Love

We don't dance.
The music forges an awkward haunt
through a tunneling memory.

The world is green...or gray.
Grim. Your face
echoes the high strung horn of youth,
Brass. I miss the saffron of early years:

Trysts at midnight...
next to an officious day.
Asphodel and dahlia;
pages of preface before
the body of story unfolds.

Fecund. Decades ahead,
We don't talk. Years churn.
An eager indifference
sucks at your pride
loaded with change...

The novel streaks
of genius and gray
pour through a darker mane.
We don't read. Friends
lay against each other,
dormant on shelves.

Text and dust: the mind
of our desire is patient;
In volumes. Tasks...
preclude the hours
emptied for love: husks
in demand of our


Lips. You whisper into the afternoon ... "I touch it to remind him he's a man. He needs to know he's a man." You see him at two — damp skin shiny in the sink with froth and "wet between his legs," you tell me.

There are cars — traffic in your dreams ... men in Chevy Luvs — white men in long, dark Thunderbirds who veer off the road on scenic routes. There are places in the hills you've been mounted ... with low-cut dresses.

"Juodida," the police mock. And tattered, your words soften as now you are in California ... tied open on the side of a van at eight PM in the sixties at a rest stop. Somewhere hot with shorts you were hitch-hiking.

They had girlfriends. There was weed. One after the other they tried you. At twelve, they were gone and you — dizzy — bang-banged at the neighbors'. Bang-banged again. The police. The humiliation. The hospital. Always the hospital. "They headed toward Mexico," you said. "No one asked for a sample."

In a bush — some bush along a stream — some stream that runs ... "sometimes," you said, something whispered "come." Enter: a long khaki trench coat and a white dog. You kept your hair trim.

In a bush — young — nearly eight — you looked. Something came. Dark. There were birds and early crocus and it was chilled for no-clothes and a not-quite-thawed rush of ground. "Rush," you said.

In dry bush you made little wet lips sing ... "come, she said" (you said). And you — knowing
something else also — made small touch ... made no sound ... made little matter. Weeping.

In the bush by that tall pine — there was some quiet cry, "come," you said. And you — itching — remembered Umberto; remembered small islands; some pond high up from Guadalupeeta. Yellow grasses. There were crisp thoughts "jumping in your mind" ... you told me, "like the dog, 'Plumeeta,' there were days you felt you were chaste.


Long past gloaming,
a howl of crossbreeds
makes distant pleas with incalculable dark;
a chorus of bleating
shocks the low constancy of tree frogs...
and the thick breezeless silence.
Nothing responds without you.

I make tea; move mildly
through an open hillside
where the clouds fold and dissolve;
effortless, in waves of moon; lunar--
the chair, the stove, the comfort
we share in a tacit absence.
Your notes: a glow of foxfire
tucked about the bed,
irritates a rare secrecy.

I want the house--its hand-hewn logs
and high vaults of light--to sate
this appetite of early hope: nascent sky...
reaching for celestial grace--pervasive
as divine intervention...perverse
as the steps textured in abstract desire,
by the blond grass of old home.
Everyone lays prone
in this careful strategy of love.

I pick through the lapsed hedge;
combing a spotted impatiens and
a drought of phlox. Scents shift
though a confused air of late orange haze.
A wood-spider dashes my latticed thigh.
The house wicks a residue of dreams
into crevices of bedroom grievances.
Evening: an alchemy--
both edible and impossible.

The grip of this inconsolable devotion
of fine words
through a gauze of foreign dialect:
love is in fusion with touch and daw

The dog. The small sounding of bells.
Cats trace the chaos of voles
in a circular stalking: misted silhouettes
on the still-opaque grounds of waking.

These volatile mementos of mood
course through bands of scar,
and protrude beneath
a transparency of revelation;
a topography of war:
these incisions and occlusions of mind...

The symmetry of my father's blue-roofed Pontiac,
and the white-washed office
on the main drag near the bank,
is a freeze where he was laid after
Big Bands and late nights made
bad time with marriage and money.
His base clarinet and baritone croon
left imprints in the rafters of the cellar rooms
in the bungalow: a silence of years spread
in a spill of blood and a stigma of desire.

A fragile weft of ebony light surrounds the street
while we pass between us
a parallel history. He speaks low
and remembers the past
in soft, inescapable ligaments of sound.
Nothing is open. The cafe purges itself of trash.
Last call rattles the tired door.
We are caught in an urbane hub of high stories;
knotted in a mutual biology:
his potato soup and coal stove;
my dislocated dreams and small talk.


All Poetry & Nothing ButClash of CivilizationsEC ChairFeatured PoetsForeign DeskGalleryStage
Hedonism: Theory & PracticeLetters & GlossolaliaArt of MarriageMoney TalkPets & BeastsZounds

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