Lunch Poems

Sugar Cube

There is a big difference between looking for something and simply looking, though travel can suit both pursuits.

I waste my time. First I am small and wobble into things. Hearing the report
of a car backfiring, I am unable to distinguish it from a rifle. Catching a fish,
I am not sure what kind of fish it is or if it is good to eat, but I look it
in the eye. If it were a magical fish,
                                 it would tell me, now,
                      while it’s dying.
Later I am able to tell a fish all of my secrets because I have secrets.
And they are horrifying, worse than anyone else’s. My stomach hurts,
I’m nervous, it’s normal, I’m allowed to drink coffee. Things are not as great
as they seemed and I suspect there is some trick I don’t know about.
This alienates me from mother and our silence prompts her to begin saying,
                                                       you’re a
Then I put on eyeliner and look fish-eyed. Terrified, high-protein, my boyfriend
blows a dandelion to muddled smithereens: a wish. One day we accidentally
scare the bats out of the pavilion in the park in broad daylight. Dramatic reversal
is everything because we wish things were not as they were:
                                                                                        We are not so interested
                                                       in feeling
                                                                  as in a change in feeling.
There is no secret but I don’t learn that until later. Hence the travel bug. Berlin.
Sunrise over the Atlas Mountains. Smoke. Smog. Fog. The night train. Spires.
Prague. Berlin. A Hungarian chandelier in a Viennese cafe. Berlin. Splendor
in the market. Men. I was looking for something and then I was just looking. The
sea, mountains, Sarajevo. He said hold the sugar cube
                                                                  in the coffee
                                                       til it’s not a cube
I didn’t know when to let go. Turn the page, turn to the side, eye contact is so difficult.
Hold it half in, really. He said it in English with a Bosnian accent. Everyone said
it sounded like a hell of an adventure. I didn’t know. Berlin, Berlin, Berlin:
Eventually someplace becomes home and you can’t imagine not speaking
                                                       all the time
                                                                  some other
Yesterday at the park a junkie rose and stepped out of the fairy ring
of energy-drink cans protecting his prone, lily-white girlfriend and asked me
if I had a light. I did not. Across the street, the supermarket parking lot dissolved
into the gravelly no man’s land behind the disco. A man disappointed his terrier
by throwing its frisbee against the cyclone fence. A big black and gray bird
—they call them “cloud-crows”—watched with interest. When I realized
                                                                             I was all that was
                                                                  holding them
                                                                  I decided to vanish
                                            in the twilight.

Amanda DeMarco is a Berlin-based journalist and translator, and the editor of the literary website Readux. Her poetry is forthcoming in The Believer and Shampoo. It has been published in 32 Poems. More by Amanda DeMarco