Still Life on a Train to Kalamata


He says he’s from Poland,

touches my necklace, tells me

he has an apartment in Athens,

wonders if I am American.

I trace my fingers on the corner

of the passport inside my nylon pouch,

watch him stare at my neck, tell him

I am meeting a friend. I switch seats,

buy a kabob from a man waving skewers

like tiny masts of lost flags.

The meat is fused to the stick

as though to bone, but the stick

is not sharp enough to kill a goat,

not sharp enough to harm

the Polish man, who has also switched

seats, is sitting ahead of me. He asks

about my watch, my travel plans.

He wants to see my passport,

my credit card. The train is moving faster,

the man selling kabobs is swaying in the aisle,

the Polish man’s questions are flying

out his window, blowing back in my window.

His voice, when it reenters, is coated with dust

and something red, maybe poppies

from the field outside, maybe blood

from a skewered goat, maybe the silk stripe

of a flag that does not wave to him.

It is a color that ought to be painted

with a fat ox-hair brush

because we are moving fast,

the Polish man is sweating, the kabob man

is sweating, I am sweating.

Everything is blurry,

smeared into one crimson, impressionistic

smudge until the only firm, fixed

thing in the scene is the stag-handled knife

in my pocket, the single blade

folded inside like a secret.

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