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Issue 41/42 : July - December, 2008 : Volume 11 No 1/2

Stephen Stepanchev

In Hastings-on-Hudson

Is it suburban angst? Astonishment?
He's a sleepy citizen, sprawled out on a bench
In front of the firehouse, near a copper bell.
He sees me hesitant and grabs my arm
And forces me to hear
The story of his twenty years in Africa
Where rain kept dripping from the acacias, leaf to leaf,
And young men died of AIDS,
And happy women were sometimes stoned to death.

"There is noting here," he says, "except the truth
Old Rip propounded: time devours the past
Of wives and children lost in accounting books."
Off in the distance the brackish Hudson rides
Toward the north-west passage where randy sailors came
To find the spice and women of India.

Nothing so far-fetched stirs the tugboat crews
Who pull or push long barges here today:
Cargoes of timber, furniture, and gas.

In Our Village

Nothing happens in this village of black-eyed
Susans and English pollyhocks and dead-end
Streets that lead to a leafy view of the Hudson River
And an old house with an iron table and chairs
For tea on the lawn in summer. There is a shady
Plaza nearby named for Wagner, a long-
Forgotten politician. A bench bears the strange,
Daunting motto, "Run for your life." Who put it there?

Nothing happens here except for the wind that blows—
A crass, pollen-filled wind that sweeps the fallen
Leaves under the elm in my back yard.
I'm reading a torn obituary page
From the local paper and learn that my friend James—
My next-door neighbor—is dead.
He died, naturally, in his sleep.

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah