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International Travel My Poetry

New Euro Poems: A Mexican in Helsinki and Katajanokka Chorus

Written about the European trip I took with my mother in June, 2018.

1. A Mexican in Helsinki

The building’s clamoring elevator going up floor by floor
I imagined the knife he might keep in his tiny kitchen.
But instead it was a glass of water and a futon, invitations
to stay, like Odysseus, perhaps, but less glamorous, perhaps.
It followed a walk around both bays in the city and movements.
Landmark upon landmark. Story upon story. Line upon line.
The blankness of kindness swelteringly awake and buzzing.
In Helsinki in the summer there is also the perpetual blue.
The hour where things go to clap shut evades the populace.
Perpetua is rumination and being condemned to best connect.
I thanked him and stared at this skin shaded bronze in lamplight.
It was the walk back where tourism converged with humanity.
The blue-lit shadow asking to give me a cheap and quick blowjob,
I could have been anywhere: New York, London, or Helsinki,
where the library’s still under construction but will be huge,
where the people who live represent to me the frailty of truth.

2. Katajanokka Chorus

In Helsinki, when the city empties, the gulls wake.
It is more than just gulls: invisible screeches
that echo across the sharp, ventricular, tunnels.
The neighborhood is dawn with feather, urgency without humans,
the landscape scraped together harmonious temple-like
by the tiniest feet and the loudest chorus of beaks.
Walking along the edges and innards of this resounding island,
I stop to record and pause and notice and remember:
could it be noisiest in front, behind, or within?
Watchtowers are the penthouse borders and rooftop lips,
and they are filled with the most fleeting beings, the most reliable.
Birds that remark on the calm as Finns wisely nod and listen:
and in this case, I mimic both, while sun paints gold on brick.

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