The Spies of Warsaw

By Mark Burgh

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Cold rain stammers on lines of street bricks, worn ideas in rows, stained with tar or blood; read them at your leisure, coffee smoldering in her cup, your sweater bunched at the elbows. Eye shadow left open on the sink. Of tears there is a novel, or dictionary of smudged intentions. Here is a man, there a woman. That’s all the franchise needs to boil. Someone coughs in the night. Match snaps fire, lights a face for a moment. You gave up piano years ago, regrets are fool’s cash. A car door slams. It’s time to leave. Or time for two men to drag you out. Where the trees recline in winter. Dirt garnered, a congregation praying above the dug hole. The only prayer you’ll get or need. Mother draped a shawl over your shoulders. Stunk of naphtha & old cigars. The cinema barked in English, a Victrola wound down like days, tired Mozart. That first kiss in the cemetery just before the war. Fingers like upward rain on your legs. That boy died at Tannenberg, you think. Now like two lovers they walk you through the loam. Hold you under the arms. This the gift you always wanted, to be desired to the point of death, to be held so close. The city’s distant, painted gray in the weather. Tomorrow the maid will unlock the door to nothing but your yellow cat blinking on the sill. The final satisfaction: you never liked her anyway.

Mark Burgh

Author’s Note:

“The Spies of Warsaw” is a poem about the life of young woman who takes up the role of spy and pays with her life.  This poem is an experiment for me, since I wrote it with a woman’s voice.  The novel of the same title inspired [it], and I wrote poem while watching the BBC production of the same name.