If not rain, then sleet. North
of the equator by several boundaries,
the beach a swill in rainbowed oil
sixty stories down, he drinks
something slick traced with pink,
matching both the slurried sunset
and what’s washing up. I’m late,
arriving. The bar begins revolving.
An exile, he starts, does not take
an airline to her mother’s.
It is a state, I suggest. Always.
A wall falls and still we’re pressing.
I am the daughter exchanged for cattle:
wife, the oldest outcast. The airline
is my mother: Ta-ta! she waves
at the open hatchway. To that,
he orders another round. If love
chafes, then cut it, cut it,
cut it. You’re not bitter enough.
I’m sorry. You’re not sorry enough.
O.K. The exile’s invisible, that trope.
You ask for peasant sapphics—listen
to that piped-in dreck. You think
slaves turn this bar, stories down?
They’re on the street, palms out.
One man does not a ripple make,
in hopeless love, in clichéd country.
He squints: Ah, all she wants is
an out-of-the-body funk under palms
and some swimming pool of desire
she’s too young to die in.
As for silence, her language condones it,
the e on the end of “exile.” He coughs
the name Kurz over the last sweet drink
and it could be the capital of any
overly developed country, the beach below
opening its sores as the stinking wind
rakes it. But we are nearly home,
the circles closing on those who watch,
blind guilt revolving, from here
instead of there, dissembling.
Terese Svoboda is the author of Great American Desert (Mad Creek Books, 2019), her second story collection, which received starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. She has previously published eight books of poetry, five novels, a memoir, a work of translation, and a critical biography, Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet. Her fiction has recently appeared in Granta, Guernica, Epiphany, and StoryQuarterly. Her poems have appeared in AGNI, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Her website is www.teresesvoboda.com. (updated 3/2019)