Love Affair in Poppy
I read your message in a Garda cafe,
miles away from your German stopover.
You were en route to fight some war,
that lasted longer than the time it took us to meet again.
That night, I changed into a sanguine dress,
red as poppy flowers,
and asked the bartender for limoncello.
I pronounced the word until it sounded accent-less,
and imbibed the cloying sour-sweet.
To negotiate alternatives to opium fields,
you would soon find your local, multilingual guides
that spoke “Pashtun,” Hindu,” and “Pakistani,”
the words like emulsified citrus in my throat
as though it would be ok to call Italian, Roman.
You were no Alexander, astute
enough to consume the mélange of indigenous life,
stitching his culture into local dynasties,
a merging of gods into the same universe
to assert with only with some looting,
the superiority of the Macedonian state.
I speak a tongue older than Latin,
lasting as the Etruscan mosaic,
no stranger to old world melting pots.
An interlocutor re-appropriating safari stereotypes,
I even ported my own campaign furniture.
But after your return,
you thought of the guides, the brown-skinned boys
and dusk-eyed women
that served you sweet pomegranates and sour curds.
I must have looked like
the evil they sent you to fight,
the people they sent you save,
who wouldn’t have evaded the Greeks, the Russians,
and lived in the hills all this time, un-saved.