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Lessons with Petra

A poem of a past lover, retrieved from an old notebook

A wrist-flick at solitaire

Or fingers creeping across

The pad of my computer

(file not found; how apt)

A sigh, a lie

A turn through the fridge

Another try, a restless dream

Summoned back by a teasing

Spectre of disconsolate discontent.

A photo I took of the sublime, inscrutably beautiful Nefertiti,

in Berlin's Neues Museum. How King Akhenaten must have loved her,

and "how well the hand that sculpted, and the heart that fed."

The ache of TV Pavarotti

(Great fat man with God's great girth,

Nessun Dorma all over earth)

The awright ya of U2, Bop!*

Stale faces, and "I'm rich" mirth,

The drudgery of work,

And lethargy of this hourless Sunday.

The thin poverty of what I write

A message scrawled bright

Along the brick tunnel of the brain

So distant it's a prick of light

Screaming like a train 'bout

Love, and finite life, and Time,

Drooling over men,

A humourless beast with loveless chops.

Past fatales, and other fleeting things,

Skinny love, floating somewhere in the universe,

I cannot grasp, or name, or regain it.

Hale-Bopp! – how can something so on-the-way-out**

Outlast us all? A breath from Troy to here,

A mere 'once around,' and I am scratching with

– Confound it –

Love, or not love: Peace, or better not:

(Too blunting on ambition) –

Tranquility, decision – what? Scratching, blindly

At a scalding mirror of revelation

To find a message of... consolation. Instead

Tormented by Petra's constellation eyes,

her foal-youth, her trippy hippy smile,

And her weightless laugh...

...I take a bath.

Petra constructs,

"I lie on my bed, and smoke,

And wait for you to call."

("Is that a wise example of the present tense?!")

Or

"Pričam ti priču,"*** but the story only

Poises on her fruiting lips!

And I find that I am staring

as a hungry boy at a bowl of fruit:

– What's there that I can loot?

Some misfit moral gesture

Returns me whole to her promise of

"The future tense – next time."

Now Misery sloshes about me

Triumphant over my Joy

At being instructed by this she-star

sage. Did I ever cage hearts?

They say so, but why then shiver

As though I am ageing cold

Loveless, warless, artless, regardless,

In short, split from

All the less that makes men more?

When all I desire,

Is your touch, a light kiss and the light of your eyes

Shedding all over me, fondly,

Tippy-toe waiting my telephone call,

(Not post-screw after drunk night in bar

Grateful though I was Jasmina),

But for Joy

Or a little light, because my facial expressions

Or my gestures, bring a smile

To the object of... my imagination.****

Petra goes, my Serbo-Croatian improved

By a proverb, her thought, a plundered word

Me a little more frantic – she has left –

And I am unnerved. Left me,

To crawl around this apartment

Skate through the afternoon

Fidget with fantasy

Skirmish with sleep, and things to do,

And not to do. I'm not Hale-Bop.

There's once around, and I'm halfway through

My flight. And I wake with moments of fright,

Alert to the drowning night.

* U2 sang their first post-war convert in Sarajevo around this time

** I remember vividly the comet's passage over the night sky of Bosnia that year

***I tell you a story, which also implies deceiving somebody.

**** It was not confined to imagination. And Petra became a pre-eminent Bosnian scientist. Always sardonic, extremely intelligent, warm, funny, and with a smile like a glow worm's.

An image I took of a Roman fresco from the Sicilian villa of Casale

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