It's Hard to be a Saint

Magdalena Zurawski
I was sympathetic to language, but often
it shrugged me and kept other lovers.
I crawled through the commas of 

Romanticism and rejected the rhythms,
though sometimes at night I could feel
a little sad. I could emerge now

into a new kind of style, but the market 
is already flooded and my people
have lost faith in things meant to land

a clear yes or no. It’s good to welcome
a stranger into the house. Introduce her
to everyone sitting at the table and wash

your hands before you serve her, lest
the residue of other meals affect your 
affections. “If something is beautiful we do

not even experience pain as pain.” (A man said
that.) “I think I owe all words to my friends.”
(I said that.) “We speak to one another

in circles alone with ourselves.” (He said 
that, too.) That’s why we go to war.
We’ve gotten too big to be friends with

everyone and so I like to feel the fellowship
of the person next to me shooting
out across a foreign plain. The streams

of light on the horizon are something
I share with him and this is also a feeling
of love. I spoke to his widow and touched

his dog. I told his daughter how his last breath
was Homeric and spoke of nothing but returning home.

More by Magdalena Zurawski

A Fold of Sun

We decided I
should go alone
on foot. I   
 
would find
him in
the pharmacy. If      
 
he said ‘In
the head of
God all propositions     
 
have existed     
always,’ we would make     
the exchange.
 
He was standing     
in front of the      
calamine lotion.
 
He spoke to the
air. I slipped   
the envelope into

his pocket and    
bought a topical      
analgesic to

avoid suspicion.       
When I left, I            
had a face     

again, could open
an account, drink          
coffee in the

sun. On the street two     
women talked      
of money. I paid them

no mind. I     
could now always       
walk with my light

to the front.  

For the Republic

The way I’m strapped into myself
I can’t escape. Wake up and be a better person! Clip your toenails,
and by sun-rise make sure
                        you’re sitting at the table reading Arendt.

With a little focus
I could become
everything I ever wished
to be: level-headed and
buoyed,
            a real (wo)man of conviction. But no, at night,
I’m like an old towel on the line, tossing and
turning in the wind of the dear leader’s
words. What does
                                      it matter, if I grind
                         my teeth for the old ladies of
                         Puerto Rico? Or take a knee
                         in the front yard every time I hear
                         the national anthem
                         in my head? The neighbor just thinks
                         I’m weeding and waves.

Of Liberation


You arrive in a sentence
where you would like
to stay, but you are told

to move on to another,
so you do and wish only
this time to keep to imaginary

places. You are not
given Zanzibar or Timbuktu
but Paducah were two

soldiers compare figures on
a motel balcony. You
note the exits and a sign

announcing no free breakfast.
One says, “You look good, man,”
to the other, who nods. Though

you had always understood
figures differently, you
respect their loyalty

to a cause impossible
to understand. “I've been
through two surgeries and

still smell as fresh as
a piano,” the admired one
says. The moon is quartered,

and the air is mild. You
sleep in a rented bed
overlooking asphalt. Through

the vents your German
professor repeats, "Ich komme
aus Dodge. Woher kommst Du?”

over and over until your
True Being separates
from a cough that will not

go away. The professor in
the morning seeks out your eye
as he slips out the door,

“To be in a sentence,”
he asserts, “is by
nature to be passing through."