We met at the revolving hotel door. You’d shaved
three weeks of growth while I had three glasses
of wine in the lounge—I was too early, I’d gone
and come back. You’re late, you said.
I touched your cheek, your neck, your Adam’s apple
beading from a slip of the blade. Chanting lured us
diagonally across the street to the Orthodox
evening service. Asters spiraled the pillars.
We stood on the steps behind the crowd. A grievous
a cappella glow, a special ceremony. Men right
beside the women tonight. Maybe Mary, you said.
Or a marriage. I thought Jude—
These be they who separate themselves, sensual,
having not the Spirit. You tapped my shoulder,
made a quick sign of the cross, and we turned
and ducked away. A shoeless gypsy
baby threw her bottle at your feet. You set it
upright beside her mother, walked on ahead
of me toward an oak growing out of and thick
as the sidewalk. I took a blurry photograph
of you approaching this trunk, and behind you
the painted white arrow on the asphalt pointed
back to where I stood. You’d just walked over it.
Tomorrow I’d be leaving. It wasn’t yet late—
I was beginning to dream in your language. You, already
too good at mine, afraid of falling. We arrived at a comedy
club without a comedy act. The cognac, too sweet. We sat
upstairs. I faced the mirror. Tell me a story, you said.
Tara Skurtu teaches incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program. She is the recipient of a 2015-16 Fulbright, a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship, and two Academy of American Poets prizes. Her poems have been translated into Romanian and Hungarian, and her recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Memorious, The Common, and Tahoma Literary Review.