Today's poem is by John W. Evans

Cine S-a Fript Cu Ciorba, Suflã şi-n Iaurt
(He who burns his tongue in soup will blow in yogurt too)

We reverse the spell in inches,
line by line,
until the code itself is indecipherable:

charcoal sparks on the pavement,
tarnish greening the church spires,
the river low at evening tide.

The old woman selling tin half-dollars
imports jasmine and sandalwood incense,
healing stones, swords, chestnut beer.

She points to the exact bills you should hand her.
Her prices are not inflated.
No one barters. No one even talks.

Her system is closed for foreigners
who do not want to be foreigners.
The dollar loses a third of its value in four months.

One year later you never speak the language.
Your lack of fluency amuses but does not surprise
colleagues. They speak English to you,

Romanian to each other,
French to their students,
German at the British night school.

The slow acid of conversion wears down,
even as the intention is clear and unremarkable,
portable, navigated, stilled.

We are Byron without the fever.
Our climax is just another cliffhanger chapter,
Missolonghi, or How I Escaped Intact!

Copyright © 2008 John W. Evans All rights reserved
from Northwest Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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