In A Strange City
where the local language sounds like gravel poured from a wine glass,
I found her selling tiny blue swans made from azurite.
Her swans were unexpectedly soft,
but she warned me that their blue would fade
with heat and time.
One eye was hidden behind her hair,
making her partial to half moons and split natures.
A caged bird faced away from her on its perch, singing to the public square.
She told me she was a Habsburg, and partial to carriages;
did I happen to have one?
No. I told her I was the Swan Police, and she must come with me.
When she laughed, it was the same,
exactly the same,
as a woman in New York, or Bucharest, or any other place where Gypsies are.
No dealer in antiquities ever touched a vase, or a sculpture
more tenderly than she touched my breasts, that evening in her two-room upstairs flat.
No occupying army ever met less resistance.
Later, on my back and insensible, I had just the strength to take her hand
and move it from its craftsmanship to my face, where her fingers left a sweet shine;
she laughed again, this time as rare as a royal.
I had to leave in the morning, of course,
but I packed the swans carefully, like sleeping babies,
more beautiful and less blue than even the day before.
the city pictured at top is Prague, Czech Republic