Back to Issue Thirty-Eight

It Was



It was the days growing shorter, shrinking to slivers,
sad smiles of light. It was a golden hour that flickered
across the sky at 3 p.m. and then gassed out. It was
us reaching for each other’s bodies in blistered air,
dreaming of Parisian wine bars. It was morning
slipping a wet gray skin over the bones of the city.
It was the snow that came and went, intermittent
and as lazy about the season as I was about my work.
It was all that futile activity—ironing, emptying
the dishwasher, applying masks and creams, painting
my nails. It was the empty bar down the street and
the rat rustling in the yard near our drinks. There were
so few events just then, and only the sky changed.
It was the way we invented diversions and became
almost good at it. It was almost enough but not
enough. It was you staying up all night, and me
moving through clouded rooms, different perspectives
like the optometrist’s lenses clicking into place.
It was dinner hours off, and no way to grit away
the time. It was a snowstorm the night before,
it was the snow on your beard. It was the way
months were just different personalities marching
across the sky—December with light fevers and
gifts, January with its philosophical ideas,
February’s knives, quick and brutal cuts. It was
improbable April with tilting daffodils, tipsy beauty,
a dizzy yellow that always made me think of
cemeteries. And so on, the roundelay of the year.
It was demure memories I kept to myself, stacks
of unread poetries, pineapple and coffee breakfasts.
It was what I tried to write, graceless and unsure,
white ink on white paper. It was the way you said
there would be an after, a happy after. And I said,
no, this is the onset, it has no end. It was the baths
I took all season to feel warm and whole.

After Mark Strand






The street was almost a memory
and longer than ever. Fulton Street:
dark marbled January sky, a muted
federal holiday coming to its end.
Twilight cubed gold and blue over
the sides of buildings in the distance—
like gems dislodged from their settings
and scattered along the skyline.
At Black Forest, our favorite German
restaurant all winter, we sat
under the red glow of a heat lamp,
a single red eye over us,
smoldering brick in the sky,
our faces and drinks cold-luminous.
We felt safe here, we were safe here.
I tapped my red nails over my
red Tito biography on the table.
All afternoon, I’d read about war
and liberation and revolution
and how Yugoslavia came to be
and in turn how I came to be—
my history spilled into me
as a different sort of history
unfolded all around us
all the sickly season. In that red light,
we kissed over the table.
The restaurant was nearly empty,
we loved each other wildly.
We talked about our friends, their
different brands of unhappy—
you said you never give up
on anyone, wouldn’t want anyone
to give up on you.
I was slipping my mask off and on.
You smoked and asked me for a story.
I thought about loss of mother,
loss of country, how to explain
what I knew I could never explain.
Artless, the past slipped through my fingers.
I told you a different story—how,
during the war, in a Nazi raid,
Tito’s German shepherd covered him
with his body, took shrapnel,
saving Tito’s life. The rest
went to sleep inside me—
a black forest of grief,
little knots in my stomach.



Maja Lukic’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Prelude, Salamander, and many other journals. Selected pieces published online are available at Most recently, her poem “Dusty Lemons” was featured by Tracy K. Smith on “The Slowdown” podcast. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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