photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1991

by Samantha Malay
published in Burningword Literary Journal, issue 84, October 2017

In smoke-scented, threadbare coats
they’d walked through frozen fields and empty streets
toward whispers of work and pickles, fresh bread and fish,
an address in a port city, yellow flowers at the base of a mountain.

See the curve of her cheek as she turns from the pier,
seagulls loud in the charcoal sky.

They’d dreamt of fruit trees and a food grinder for the new baby.

Between tanks of tropical fish, he eats a sandwich at his workbench
in the hazy pungent air.

Short sleeves show Navy tattoos, the arms of a tinkerer, an appliance repairman.
Branches heavy with plums obscure the potholed alley.

Doorbell. Cars on Orchard Street. A neighbor’s sprinkler.

Turn the radio on.

Were they led by bravery or hunger?

The men who knew him then turn to each other now.

Signal and refrain.

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