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Two European Girls
by David Matthews
I thought maybe things were looking up when
Two European girls came to my door
At dinnertime, looking for a corkscrew.
“I’m Sonya,” said the one who offered her
Hand with a smile. “We’re European girls.”
The girls were staying at the apartment
Of the Polish brother and sister who
Moved into the building last fall. It seems
The brother and the sister were away;
The girls had wine, but no corkscrew. I was
Delighted to provide them my corkscrew.
I confess I did for a wild instant
Entertain the thought these girls might invite
Me to join them for a glass of wine.
They graciously thanked me for the corkscrew,
But no invitation was forthcoming.
I watched them turn and bound back down the steps.
Young Sonya soon was back with the corkscrew,
For which she graciously thanked me again.
I watched her bound again back down the steps.
As is my custom, I picked up a book
After dinner, Wordsworth, if mem’ry serves,
And poured another glass of the red wine
I drink these days, a little merlot that
Does not too much strain a poet’s purse.
My thoughts turned to how it might have played out,
Had I impressed those girls with my wit, charm
And savoir faire when they came to the door
To borrow a corkscrew. A man who would
Call himself a poet surely would not
Be sitting home alone but for Wordsworth,
While two European girls enjoy
With aid of his corkscrew what well could be
A better class of wine than he drinks.
Who among us thinks Bukowski would have
Stood by and watched two European girls
Parade back down the steps with his corkscrew?
Or Ginsberg. Ginsberg would have got the names,
Phone numbers and addresses of fair-faced
Younger brothers back in Prague or Warsaw
Or Budapest so he could look the lads
Up next time across the great ocean wide.
When I put down my book and stepped outside
To take in the night sky, the moon, the clouds,
I heard music, gay and rhythmic, and saw,
Through a lighted window, the silent dance
Of silhouettes whose world I do not know.
I watched for only a moment, before
My thoughts turned back almost twenty-five years
To Edda, a girl from Lima, who read
My poems and turned me on to Rilke.
We passed a bit of time together, some
Afternoons and evenings, before she split
For Germany and grad school. We lost touch.
I did hear, some years after, she returned
To Peru, where to please her family,
She married a man of status and wealth,
With whom she was said to be unhappy.
Those European girls are lovely, young,
Their faces untouched by blemish or care,
The fullness of life lighting each movement,
The way they hold themselves, speak, hold silent,
Smile. But it is Edda who holds my thoughts
This night. Is her hair once so dark gone gray,
As mine is gone gray? Does she read Rilke
As evening shadows fall and fade across
Her dark eyes, a candle’s flicker to light
The still intensity of her pale face?
Has time creased her brow? scarred her tender heart?
Does she yet hold true to beauty and walk
In grace through this world? . . . as I like to recall
We once held true and so walked, as I like
To think we walk some way together still —