Dispatches From the Interior

By Geoffrey Brock

Featured Image: “A Lone Child Walking Down the Street at Night“, Unknown Artist

Like the one where you stumble along happily drunk
after closing a bar and reach your car only to find it
surrounded by militia who take you in to question you
about why you left your son alone in the car so long
and you say I lost track of time though that’s not true
and Can I see him and they refuse and Is he okay and
you’re panicking and thinking What if he died in there
or the one the very next night when you find yourself
atop some posh hotel listening to some poet speaking
and realize you haven’t seen your son since morning
when you let him go down to the lobby alone to play
despite the warnings you now recall about the natives
and you race for the elevator but there is no elevator
and so you find the stairs and descend floor by floor
and each landing is a shabby apartment living room
and though you can sometimes tell someone is home
water running for instance or light under a shut door
you never see anyone or gain any real insight into this
country of ancient dearth and modern resentment
what country is this anyway? and after the gauntlet of
these empty private foreign lives you emerge at last
into a brightly lit and darkly paneled colonial lobby
and scramble frantic now through the patrician crowd
looking for help but when you ask a giant suited man
if he speaks English he replies in the plummiest nasals
I don’t just speak it I am it and merely cocks one brow
about your son so you race outside where a boy squats
alone in the penumbra by a bush and you tilt his face
to the light but he isn’t yours too small and dark and
you keep looking and see others and scream one name
and then oh god you see his hunched familiar shape
rise out of the pile of dead leaves he had hidden under
and stumble toward you arms extended the pajamas
he was wearing this morning now tattered and filthy
and when you scoop him up you discover obscenities
and anti-American slogans scrawled in black marker
on his face and blood or something caking his nostrils
and he doesn’t speak or cry and nothing shines forth
from those eyes and you carry him cradle him through
this endless third-world night trying to comfort him
but knowing you will never be able to comfort him but
cooing You’re safe now Daddy’s here or the one where

Geoffrey Brock is the author of Weighing Light, the translator of Cesare Pavese’s Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-1950, and the editor of The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry, out in spring 2012. Currently a Howard Foundation Fellow, he teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arkansas.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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