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Published: Tue Oct 26 2021
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Détente (Here Comes the Cold War Again)

after Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War

Love, love, we’ve lost each other again,
And the way back to benighted here: _______________________,
To garlic braids, fibs, and stoic folktales,
To drunken arias and rash regimes,
O transiting maestro,
Is a bomb-fissured bridge,
A blasted fountainhead,
A careworn, razor-lipped pledge.
Among Turk’s-cap lilies,
Forget-me-nots, and allium blossoms, amour,
You’re as subtle as a pterodactyl’s swoop,
A rhino’s tusk,
Or a cell-wielding,
At-a-gallop Genghis Khan—
Sans all the guile and rollicking cruelty:
Imagine that: a civil Genghis!

Say something!
Escape artist, un-budging soul, don’t tell me
This midsummer noon’s
Cloud-blessed and never-ending,
Then nimbly execute your spur-
Of-the-moment legerdemain,
Your lick-fast getaway,
Leaving me rudderless, wary,
Bereft of even a telltale
Message in a bottle—

Lovers who’ve never seen
The ho-hum insides of a jail
Or spied through a Judas-hole,
Inglorious defectors, when we say yes,
When an innocuous bouquet,
Like a blameless marital bribe,
Adorns our peace-talk table, replete
With just-baked bread and basement jam,
And a full, frictionless détente
Reigns, suffusing our no-longer-
Feuding household,
Then your flat-out propaganda,
Flagrant morning love-cries,
Your sorrow and your wayward sex
Are all mine—
Even your clove cigarettes
And irresistible hashish
Stashed in the pantry breadbox.

My dove, don’t belittle the battlefront,
Don’t struggle to dispel
The pillaging soldiers; it’s clear,
In the strife-torn penultimate reel,
Ta-da—it’s you!
You’re the intransigent enemy,
The menacing catapult,
The mastodon towers
And inveterate sentinels,
Poised and ready to un-kennel
Chaos—the fearsome barracks
And fluttering battle-flags—

Dear headstrong spouse,
I hope our lithe and greedy
Offspring, our stuttering,
Straitlaced-as-Pilgrims
Grandchildren issue a toast
To that unbridled wedding day
When we dipped and swirled,
Ionized by lightning jazz
And Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose,”
Dancers in a sober-seeming village,
Rife with windfall apples and pears,
With rumors of wayfaring bums
And silver-bullet-slain werewolves:
Man and woman blessed
In a humble stone chapel,
Now desolate and in ruins—
Where the cobwebbed, plain-Jane altar
Once gussied with roses
Is wrecked, dull as a boy’s
Hapless mitten,
Sullied with straw and snowmelt—
Where the caulked door
Has blown utterly open,
Where the roof’s not an actual roof—
Here comes the twister!

But the brash and streaming sky.

Cyrus Cassells is the author of eight books of poetry, including The World That the Shooter Left Us (Four Way Books, forthcoming 2022) and The Gospel according to Wild Indigo (Southern Illinois University Press, 2018). He is the translator from the Catalan of Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas (Stephen F. Austin University, 2019), which won the Texas Institute of Letters’s Souerette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translated Book. His honors also include the Balcones Prize, a Lannan Literary Award, a Lambda Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, two NEA grants, an NAACP Image Award nomination, and the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award. He is the 2021 poet laureate of Texas. (updated 10/2021)

Cassells’s AGNI poem “Elegy with a Gold Cradle” was chosen for The Best American Poetry 2017.

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