Michael heaves and hacks in the bathroom, a noisy victim
of dodgy Chinese in Vienna and one too many full-fat lattes.
I hear him call for me, pathetic mewl, and I shuffle through
the guidebook for the Austrian equivalent to 9-1-1.
Sprechen sie Englisch? I’d ask the kind, answering voice. I’d admit
to her I still don’t know how to navigate sudden endings. Even
news of an old perfume’s demise shakes me. I remember
the pale pink glass bottle, how it reigned supreme upon the throne
of my best friend’s dresser, next to dried daisies — a fragrant,
expensive gift from her cow-licked, thin-lipped boyfriend,
whose relentless, dopey love both embarrassed and thrilled me.
I can’t save anything that can be taken away, held hostage
behind closed doors. I can’t reach Michael in time, so I curl up
and wait, until the fevered one might well be me. I tell you,
he is just as precious as every twinkling light in this city,
hung to usher in a holiday I don’t celebrate, a season
for trinkets either cherished or forgotten, but always collecting
dust. At the market, cream and gold ornaments dangle above
and heaps of powdered sugar cookies sit, bulging with jam.
I stuff my bags with souvenirs and take it all home so I can
keep it, so I can dote on shelves of stale crumbs forever.
Nicole Steinberg is the author of Getting Lucky, available from Spooky Girlfriend Press, Birds of Tokyo (dancing girl press, 2011), and two new chapbooks in 2014: Undressing from dancing girl press and Clever Little Gang from Furniture Press, winner of the 4X4 Chapbook Award. She is also the editor of an anthology, Forgotten Borough: Writers Come to Terms with Queens (SUNY Press, 2011). Her poetry has appeared in journals such as H_NGM_N, BOMB, The Toast, Barrow Street, Sixth Finch, and Barrelhouse, and has been written up in the New York Times, Flavorwire, Bitch, The Philadelphia Review of Books, Hyperallergic, and elsewhere. In 2012, her work was featured in Transhistoria, the Queens edition of the Guggenheim Museum’s stillspotting nyc project. She’s the founder of Earshot, a New York reading series for emerging writers, and she currently lives in Philadelphia.