‘NEW YORK CITY’ & ‘NEIGHBORS’ by Marguerite Guzman Bouvard

soft cartel april 2018

NEW YORK CITY

At first I stared through the 12th floor
window at the cement high rises,
their windows identical, the sky cancelled
by their height, wishing for a green leaf.
But it was Uber that unexpectedly
thrilled me. On my first ride,

the driver spoke Hungarian and
we chatted about my friend who was among
the first to flee the communist regime,
and about Victor Orban the new leader
whom I disliked because he leaned
towards Russia, learning from

the driver, the depth of corruption
in Hungary, the poverty of its ordinary
people. Then there was the driver
from China and I listened to his radio
station in Mandarin, remembering
my time working with Lao refugees

when my attempt to speak a tonal
language made them burst into
laughter. The driver with the long beard
and a high round hat that seemed
from the middle ages, told me that
he spoke Bengali, and I answered

that my Pakistani friend spoke Urdu,
but he replied that everyone there
spoke Bengali. And the driver from
Afghanistan told me that he came here
because of Russia’s war there, and that now
it was Pakistan that was the problem,

and I answered that I knew its army was
protecting the Haqqani rebels and others
on the borders. Finally instead of the usual
blast of pop music, I heard the classical
music I love and learned that the young man’s
wife was studying for a career in music,

and he thanked me for my questions
with a lovely Latin American accent.
So I toured the world, not as a diplomat
with his government’s message, or a traveler
on a luxurious cruise, but meeting people who
hold their country’s history in their daily lives.

NEIGHBORS

My neighbors on this mountain slope
are families of goats and sheep
that travel in waves, their tinkling bells
part of their language. They are busy
foraging tender blades of grass,
and when the sun is scalding,
they lie down together beneath
a tree. If they sense a storm brewing,
they gather again for shelter; black goats
and brown, a white goat speckled
with brown, the same for sheep, a communal
bond. They don’t dream of large chalets,
of a made up splendor that sets us apart
from each other. Their steps are gentle
and they know how closely they are
intertwined with the land. Their paths
do not wound it, like the cranes,
and bulldozers that crowd the region
but help it retain its green lights,
and if their passage is brief,
it leaves no scars.

Marguerite Guzman Bouvard is the author of 9 poetry books, two of which have won awards. She has also written a number of non-fiction books on human rights and social justice. She has been a quiet rebel all her life, i.e. as an academic she has dared to write books in five different fields and has walked her own path all her life. Her poetry books and poems were featured in the November, 2017 issue of the Blue Heron Review.

 

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