In a city made of seaweed we danced on a rooftop, my hands
under her breasts. Subtracting
day from day, I add this woman’s ankles
to my days of atonement, her lower lip, the formal bones of her face.
We were making love all evening—
I told her stories, their rituals of rain: happiness
is money, yes, but only the smallest coins.
She asked me to pray, to bow
towards Jerusalem. We bowed to the left, I saw
two bakeries, a shoe store; the smell of hay,
smell of horses and hay. When Moses
broke the sacred tablets on Sinai, the rich
picked the pieces carved with:
“adultery” and “kill” and “theft,”
the poor got only “No” “No” “No.”
I kissed the back of her neck, an elbow,
this woman whose forgetting is a plot against forgetting,
naked in her galoshes she waltzed
and even her cat waltzed.
She said: “All that is musical in us is memory”—
but I did not know English, I danced
sitting down, she straightened
and bent and straightened, a tremble of music
a tremble in her hand.
American Tourist was published in Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004).
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission of the author.