Nov 24, 2009


Written by Nick McRae

Read by Amy Letter

— for my father

In this city whose name you can’t pronounce —
where women pace barefoot in dry grass and rusting
bottle caps, sandals in hands, skirts trailing for days;
where old men pack grocery aisles, tens of them, alone,
palming blocks of Edam; where flower-sellers, mustached,
slick-haired, silk ties cinched tightly, flit restaurant to restaurant
like rumors, roses spilling from their arms, pockets full of coins,
while outside, street kids release firecrackers from paper shrouds;
where paraders roam squares, scarves waving,
whose chants rise even as the bottles fall to stone;
where girls in wooden fair-booths, eyes study-weary
beneath the ridiculous haberdashery of corporate America,
slice salami for bankers and tourists and the hungry poor
with soiled bills outstretched — I think of you.
You told me once you’d rather do without all that,
that you’d only ever have one home and that wasn’t it,
that you’d never call this home, said you’d never
lost anything here. Home is the place we lose things:
daylight hunched over engines and their elegies
to oil, the decades of dust; money year after year
bailing your boys out of jail in towns with names
familiar as worn flannel; sleep, teeth (one to an apple,
one to a walnut you find nestled in black leaves
behind a church); your fear of losing me every time
I return to feel your stubble against my cheek.
Here, thousands of birds on spires and antennae
raise their terrible throats to the morning
as though they’d never met. Right now
I am alone in a train car with a girl you’ll never know,
and as we idle at a border crossing, eyeing each other’s passports
for the first time, she gives me handfuls of radishes,
and I know I will lose her, lose whole days pacing alleys
in the cobbled pastels of this city I will also lose,
which will become, as I speed away from it, my home.