In the Year of Machine Gun Serenades



In the year of machine gun serenades,

when angry men emptied their guns

into the mouths of stars,

I fell in love with your father.

We were the last of the cold war children,

born in the crater of the aftermath.

We met in a church

filled with broken hymns and snow

on a street of no dresses and pearls

in a city of boarded up bread stores

and paralyzed buses. We walked home together.

He was a cypress pulpit. I was a quiet psalm.

These words are the only photographs we took.

Before our spines became Berlin Wall souvenirs,

we were gun street dreamers born to be casualties.

We fought to live in every breath.

We loved like an island, ignoring all borders.


On our first date we took a walk

through what had been the town’s only zoo.

The animals, long gone at the first premonition of war

had left behind empty cages with gaping frozen mouths

gossiping about exotic dinners cooked by the zookeeper’s wife.

We stopped to read each inscription

as if something alive was still roaming  inside.

He held my hand for the first time by the peacock cage,

found a single feather caught in the wire,

stuck it in my shy, hungry hair.

In the background, machine gun serenades played

in rotation like an obnoxious summer hit pop song.

It made for terrible first date music.

This is how we kissed:

my purple fingers anchored in the trenches of his fists.

He aimed for my chest with a heavy artillery heart,

and was met with no resistance. We embraced for impact.

The bridle barricades of our lips collapsed,

our bodies careened into unconditional surrender,

a changing of arms.


On our second date, we did not leave my neighborhood.

Between my father’s curfew, and Marshall Law,

it was mission impossible.

We sat on the cold, crooked steps

in front of my concrete apartment building

between walls scarred by greedy stray bullets,

obscene graffiti, lazy men’s piss, and political posters.

This time we kissed in broad daylight,

a firing wall defiant,

never minding the pack of stray dogs

barking at each passing bicycle,

the trapped housewives peeking

behind torn newspaper curtains,

or my father, howling from the third floor window

because my neck was no longer willing

to surrender to his chain;

never minding the same machine gun serenades

playing in the background by tone deaf amateurs,

and the juvenile delinquent brothers of the third floor

tearing around the corner on a stolen army tank,

roaring like a trapped dinosaur, taunted by the hoards

of neighborhood children with cultivated cruelty,

banging on wretched beast with pipes and dull bayonets

we kissed, until the last police patrol whistle

quenched the lights on a thousand petrified windows,

turned the empty street into forbidden air,

and the tank, into the carcass of a murdered dinosaur.


On our third date he brought me a suitcase.

I gave him two passport pictures,

and a tin box with the weapons factory money,

three summers worth.

He said, Alabama, a front porch to listen to silence.

He said, children.

I said yes.

In the year of fallen angels

I fell in love with your father.

We were the last of the Cold War children,

the sum of our reassembled parts.

I was a threshold. He was a door.

We built ourselves with leftover wood

from Noah’s ark, and we loved like an island,

ignoring all borders.


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