Old Man Ties the String While I Breathe

Air tightens. Dust from outside. Smoke coasting
along our stubborn train. Time crooked

and bent like the ancient roads for mules
carrying wood and grapes up and down

the mountain outside the window. No name
in my books and I’m forgetting my own

as the uniformed man screams. Dogs think
we’ll understand them if they bark louder.

Time wrinkles its nose at his sweat and bends
my head down. His shoes. One dusty, one

polished like a mirror. Bystryy! Faster!
I must hurry but doing what? I pull out

my passport to show him, meek, fake smile
under my bangs. Hand ignored. Shoes

closer, knee grinds against mine, lifting
my skirt, he bends, knife in hand. To buy

time, I say Tak, Russian for stalling.
Between my legs he pulls out my package.

Too impatient he cuts the string, snip
snip, he tears the wrapping, stares at me.

Without a word he leaves to read
a stolen two-week-old newspaper.

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Gunilla T. Kester is an award-winning poet and the author of If I Were More Like Myself (The Writer’s Den, 2015), and two chapbooks, Mysteries I-XXIII (2011) and Time of Sand and Teeth (2009), with Finishing Line Press. Her work has or will be published in On the Seawall, Cider Press, The American Journal of Poetry, Pendemics, and Atlanta Review.

Photo credit: Enid Bloch


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