Patrick Rosal

The Basque Nose

I may as well be invisible
when Curtis says to Idoia his wife
That Basque nose
Let me touch that nose

and she lets him
and I’m surprised I don’t
repeat him: Let me touch that nose
even though I’ve thought more often
of her chin— what I would abandon
to touch the line along
the muscle of her neck
to the small ridge below her ear —
a place which has no simple word
even in the half dozen languages
we choose not to speak in that room
Curtis—one of the most benign
men I know except for one
New Year’s when he got drunk and vaulted
his six-foot-four Iowa-farmboy frame
over the dinner table to stomp
the gum out of some brute
pushing up on Idoia
But do you blame him?
The brute I mean
for blabbing anything
the liquor—he mistook
for muse—inspired him to say
just to hear Idoia speak—her vowels
thin cool and round as céntimos
dropped in a beggar’s hand
I smoke on their front patio
Idoia stops in the kitchen
And I hold my cigarette
to the window between us—
how (for a moment) she purses
her mouth near the glass
a mock gesture too much
like a kiss for me to ignore
After dinner Curtis Idoia and I drink
wine which gives me courage
to practice my Spanish I think about
the difference between saber and conocer
conjugating each verb beginning
in first person New Jersey familiar
So when Curtis gets drunk
and kisses his wife’s shoulders
they both close their eyes and I’m still
muttering I know… You know… He knows…

Patrick Rosal
The Basque Nose is reprinted from Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive (Persea Books, 2003).
Poem, copyright © 2003 by Patrick Rosal
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse