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Lisbon, 1989

The new year lurched
on a clamor of horns
trash cans and firecrackers
rising up from the harbor
over the window sills
into a hotel room where
civility had just died.
Next day we went for lunch
to a pricey restaurant
filled with leftover Nazis
and I was sick in the ladies’ room
where the walls were zebra skins
and the vanity stools mothed-up
leopard. So I left alone

for a walk, drank a cold
espresso in a cold café
and reckoned my losses
in the face of lowering rain.
At a bookstore I opened a book
of poems: a few tender lines
about the emerald sea, memory
bringing a smell of salt and roses—
before the words swam back into
Portuguese, indecipherable.
Querido Pessoa, your voice
was clear as music for those
few moments I could read
all the poems ever written.