Read Poem: № 16, by Dušan Gojkov

I remember
portobello road
where I first touched you
to draw your attention
to a beautiful façade
the passers-by
were running from the rain
the fruit-sellers
closing their stalls
I remember
the church portal
where we listened to
the warmth of silence
I remember
watching you sleep
with your lips puckered
and listening
to your deep breathing
I remember the sheet
over your hips
in a tender
outline
interesting
I can’t remember
what your eyebrows were like
I remember
the row of trees
which cut through the vineyard
the persistent wind
and the way we walked slowly
with your hand
in the pocket of my coat
listen
this may sound corny
but before I met you
there was really something missing
I remember
your letters
blaβblaufrauenschrift
which you left on the pillow every morning
while I was still asleep
I remember
how you waited patiently
for me to finish
looking at three paintings by monet
and remember
watching you dance
to music
all alone
and our long walks
in the streets around the covent garden
I remember us
in a train
tangled together, sleeping
as we travelled
or our little room
for rich tourists
above the café de la paix
too expensive but that’s what you wanted
the square
was teeming with people
I remember
the record that played
on and on
over and over again
(tom waits, closing time, I think)
I remember
holding your hand
when you were afraid
I remember
the restaurant with the name I’ve forgotten
but which I could
still find
with my eyes closed
and our silence
stretching for hours
to a bottle of wine
hell, that was an ugly silence
and this is the book
I bought that Saturday
when I waited for you to finish at the hairdresser’s
the streets were moist
with last night’s rain
or the street washers’ efforts
it was early morning
still a bit nippy
and we went
to have coffee together
but we didn’t have coffee
because we had to shout at each other a little first
so things felt awkward afterwards
I remember you
watering the flowers
singing to them quietly
so they would grow better
and how, cheeks flushed, after work,
you downed a tumbler of cognac
to which I objected
hey
have some respect
that’s good stuff
I remember
the spring in greece
when you sobered me up
with olive oil and vinegar
disgusting
you followed the advice
of the women in our neighbourhood
that’s how they tortured
their husbands
then came the summer
and the two of us, sunburnt,
lay prostrate in our room
with a big wet towel
across our backs
and we whispered: listen
the heat is so strong that it buzzes
at night
we sat on the terrace
nuzzling the cold chenin blanc
that’s when we discovered it
I look at your profile
as you take your shoe off
to shake out the beach sand
and at your foot
tiny
my god, what a foot that was
I remember
how you fought with the waiter
when he brought me the wrong drink
not the one I’d ordered
how we made love
with the TV on
a romantic movie blaring
I teach you my tongue
by rolling poetry off it
I see you
sitting on the edge of the bath
while I am shaving
you are massaging in face cream
the hydrating make-up base
whatever
I see you collecting dry leaves around the garden
only the beautiful ones;
they still fall out
from books long left unopened
I remember
when you went to another room
to make secret phone calls
I pretended to read the paper
the financial reports
god forgive me, I was so…
I remember
your dog
our puppy, rather
who came up to the bed every morning
and burrowed between us
I remember
the first time you left
I looked out of the window
into an empty street
into the night
there was a poster for a cowboy movie
across the road
the radiators were cold
the boiler in the bathroom
hissed
and
your eyes
were there as soon as I closed mine
I remember
the smell of your clothes
forgotten in the cupboard
a large cardboard box
full of photos
god, what did I do with them?
which one of my house moves
was the end of them?
I remember
quiet evenings
you painting
and me writing
or reading in the armchair
I remember
the flowers which kept arriving
each morning
suffusing the apartment
with their oppressive smell
perhaps I should have asked
who was sending them
perhaps
I remember the night sounds
your breathing
and the muffled song of the drunks
coming from below
I remember how,
when you were to go “somewhere”,
I hurried you along
so you wouldn’t be late
pretending to have no clue
and how you came back
from hospital alone
with blue
black
rings around your eyes
something needed saying
I know
as soon as I was away
you packed your suitcases
bags
toiletry bags
some of the things even spilled over
into the woven basket for the market
I remember
your silence in answer to my question
I remember
my silence in answer to your silence
I remember gazing through the window
and the sound of your key on the kitchen table
and the sound of the apartment door, opening
I remember
hitting you on the face
(all my life, my hand will follow
that trajectory)
and I remember you crying
well before impact

——

Dušan Gojkov (1965)
A poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, radio drama director, journalist. Published fifteen books, and some poetry and prose in a dozen anthologies. Winner of some domestic and foreign literary awards.
Directed more than two hundred radio dramas and around twenty documentary tv films.
Editor-In-Chief of Balkanski književni glasnik Magazine – Balkan Literary Herald.

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