Elegy to XX

by Lacey Smith

Elegy to XX

On the first night,
a stranger gave me a two-dollar bill.
„To good fortune," he said,
a drunken stumble in his step.
I clasped my arms around old friends
and drank deep the Colorado air.

It was the summer of sandwiches
and the bursting stench of grilled meat.
My feet ached with the long hours,
and I called out orders in my sleep.
I thought I'd never shake the smell
of grease.

But oh, those night when we could
squeeze an hour or two for sweet nothings,
your voice always crawling
from my ear downward.
I liked to picture you beyond words,
to mold you to all of my suggestions.

My brother cried once of only
two times I'd seen, and the lace
of my mother's dress clung to her tan skin.
She flashed her million dollar smile
and gazed lovingly into
my new stepfather's eyes.

I cried on the way to the airport,
knowing everything must change.
My mother just laughed and said
she'd known it all along.
I solemnly ate my pancakes
and stumbled on towards Germany.

I got wrapped up in the humidity of you,
and read every book on your shelf.
I'd toss about the warm sheets
for hours after you'd leave.
I clung to even the scent of your sweat,
and rearranged the letters in our names.

But oh, Berlin! A vast expanding divide.
It was an indian summer, and I struggled
through your genders and verbs,
tasting the foreign evenings with zeal.
I kissed a frenchman at Friedrichstrasse
and vowed never again to fear change.

Settling into Bremen,
I became accustomed to this new world.
I craved my mother's cooking,
and drank my weight in Beck's.
Freimarkt twinkled with German charm,
and soon even tram routes were familiar.

Christmas in a tiny village,
my makeshift mother urged me
to eat another cookie.
New Year's Eve in Berlin with old friends,
I drank Sekt from a plastic water bottle
and held close to momentous memories.

Short winter days begged for respite,
and Vienna provided sunlight and cobblestone,
white horses and modern art.
I felt an undeniable sense of place,
quietly perched between gardens and Rubens.
I lit up in a million colors.

And London, the smoky glow of clubs
dripping with hip, the pull for theatrics
on each corner, so aware of my accent.
I embraced cliche as I listened to
The Smiths, my bus tumbling through
the foggy green of the English countryside.

In Bremen, days went slower,
ambling through the Bürgerpark
with little sense of urgency.
I let my breath catch at extraordinary sights,
and contemplated rhododendrons
and ducks in imminent pairs.

At night, I'd drip with exhaustion
as my body moved independent of self.
Inhibition was a disease,
and I allowed myself to be cured completely.
I'd dance my feet into the ground,
pressing my heels harder into my shoes.

And the blinding light of that blow,
flashbacks like film strips constantly repeating.
I'd press a hand to my eyebrow
and wince with memory.
I was lost at sea, reckless and willful
for home.

Scars healed, albeit slowly,
and the days twisted with heat and humidity,
flowing into a conscious summer.
I wrote poems and walked along the Weser,
spending long hours changing
just as I'd feared.

The year was a circle of sound
ringing like a chime,
shaking my bones with the sense of self.
The twentieth year of my life
faded into quiet nostalgia.


Author's Note: I believe this was an assignment for my poetry class when I was living in Bremen. It's basically a month by month account of my 20th year of life. Oddly enough, it seems like that particular year in my writing was marked by almost prose-like realism as opposed to the rhetorical abstraction I favored as a younger writer. This could practically be a monologue. Just interesting to see the difference.

Posted on 10/17/2011
Copyright © 2021 Lacey Smith

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