Letter to Hannah from Vršovice

This poem won Third place in 2-Day Poem Contest 2019

         The city blooms early again. Pairs of girls

pose by the cluster of magnolias at the tram stop,

lift their chins to flowers big as tea cups. I walk

to our old apartment and look across the street

where the man used to stand in the window


        and take out his teeth, his face a quick

sinkhole. My father would say gnashers, gnathic.

I blow my nose and hear songbirds. I’m alone

and there’s no one to confirm my existence.

Yesterday at Vršovická zahrada, I ate pickerel


        on a stick and drank beer. My cold calf

brushed a woman’s leg. Her upturned face was soft,

expectant. It’s a different city without you in it.

Clouds are strung up like bunting. Easter: the boys

out to weave willow switches, to hit the girls


        for boiled eggs. Following the crowds

to Karlův most is a practice in patience, serpentine

through tourists. I’m slippery, a slick customer

in sunglasses. A guide tells a ball-capped group

of defenestration, self-immolation, how desolate,


        the dying in this city. Last night I dreamt

of a moth the colour of sea foam, ensorcelled

by its own reflection in the mirror. Do you

still dream of aging in a velour jogging suit?

I sit on my new window ledge, the way


        that made you nervous, and scissor

my legs. Imagine my falling body. Plan to buy

a big potted plant to anchor myself here,

to this place for a while. Forty minutes

away by bus is the gorge in Prokopské


        where the devil was rumoured to escape

through the cave ceiling, leaving a hump behind.

In winter, kids toboggan the slope and say, speak

of the devil. Is it easier to be the one leaving or left?

A friend tells me loneliness is good for poems


        but I picture you on the couch darning socks.

A flower on the sill left unopened. It’s comforting to think

there are clouds above your head. For your birthday

we hung one hundred balloons from the ceiling

with string. A little rain played against the window.