This port is hard on sailors,
hard on beggars who don’t speak
French. When my sleeping bag
begins to crawl, we land at a clinic—
imitating sidewinders, snakes that lie
to women in deserts, cheap
souvenirs from a forgotten life.

I am ashamed and crying.
He is patient, long and slow
as the river murmuring outside.

His eyes are sherry brown, almost liquid.
We are almost liquid as we sit cross-legged,
his eyes warming me through
second hand tights.

He hands me a cup with a broken handle,
filled with tea from an island of spice.
He reads my fortune, peers into the mug.
He thinks I am crazy, he thinks

his love will save me. The tea leaves
don’t listen to his confidences.

He makes me drain a second, this time
with a clean mug. He takes my hands
instead, won’t reveal a better future.

I collect shells and feathers, cast-offs,
treasures. We talk about words
before we know the meaning of the song.

The part about Jesus always confuses—
drowning people, the blind men and sailors,
leaving these ports lonelier still.

I will leave him behind. I will come back
different. With gifts, exotic offerings.
Nesting dolls, a smuggled turtle, bergamot and oils.
He will wait for me, turn me into this.

Snow in his eyelashes when he kisses me goodbye.
We will warm each other through.
We will tell each other stories, make our fortunes with these lies.

I will peer into porcelain and directly in his eyes.

About the author

Laurie Byro's short stories and poetry draw on myth, fairytale and her experiences of foreign places in the years she worked as a travel…

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Issue 05 · June 2009

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