Two Poems

G. C. Waldrep


We walked along a badly-mortared path between the Grammary and the Consulate. It was night; the peacocks were screaming from the spice merchants' lavish compounds in the neighborhoods closer to the river. We could hear them as if from a slightly greater distance than was actually the case owing to the humidity sweeping in as fog from the estuary. It was not especially cold, but you kept drawing your cloak tight about your shoulders as if it were. The meeting had been planned for 8, but here it was almost 9. Far from hurrying, we sauntered together as if we had no particular place to go, no particular appointment. I hummed a few bars of a folk song: Is the hammer in your freezer / like the hammer in your soul? The war had been the principal topic of conversation for weeks, without reference to the occupation.



Later, after the Wall had come down, street-hawkers everywhere were selling pieces of masonry they claimed had come from that fearsome structure. Hans sent me one "as a souvenir," he said, "of the election." It was gray and crumbly. It could have come from any construction or demolition site in the world. Some days I believed it came from the Wall. Other days I remembered Hans's gullibility, his boundless enthusiasm. This is how gifts work: the gullibility and the enthusiasm. I wanted to do my part, or play my part. I walked down to the 6th Street elementary school and carefully filled out a ballot. When I attempted to slip it through the narrow slot in the splintery oak box at the center of the gymnasium, an elderly woman with hair pinned back into an enormous bun asked me for my identification. I pulled my piece of Wall from my bag and handed it to her. She nodded, took a few steps back, and placed the chunk of concrete amid a pile of similar chunks. Everything seemed to be in order. Hans would have been proud.

G.C. Waldrep

G.C. Waldrep's collections of poems are Goldbeater's Skin (Colorado Prize, 2003) and Disclamor, (BOA Editions, 2007). He currently lives in Lewisburg, Pa., and teaches at Bucknell University.