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Budapest

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1

You dreamed of this place once
when you were a child, and Budapest
clung to the page of an old book.
That night, you prowled
through cobblestone streets,
through dusty libraries,
and you rested your hand
on a verdigris statue.

Time runs a line through your arms,
straight as the path
from your fingertips to your elbow.
The sun beats down on your shoulders;
roof tiles dig into your heels.

      Distance

magnifies the poetry written
in the curls of her hair;

      space

reveals the light gilding
her green eyes gold.

(When you were a child and Budapest
was the moon setting over a river,
you didn’t think that history
could be something small and intimate.
   History to you
was occupations and battles and war;
   history was not
damasked walls and sniper targets
   and two people who
      but for their convictions
   mattered nothing to the world.)

You are only a spot against the sky,
   but you still cannot afford
   to let that sliver of gold
turn whole.

Time bends
      and pauses.

2

Her absence
   marks her presence.
You realize too late
that you did not catch glimpses of her—
   she is the one
      who caught you.

3

You meet in a hotel room.
Close combat was never your forte.
She plays you,
   you play her;
this is a dance,
each step
   a lie raised,
  a lie broken,
and your mutual deception
is weapon enough for both of you.

You’re face-to-face
when you reach a truce—
she’ll let you live
if you let her live—
and what you don’t say
is that you’re not doing this
   out of fear for your life,
but
 out of want for hers.

4

It should end there, but it doesn’t.
Instead, a building explodes;
instead, you’re fighting alongside her;
instead, you meet again, this time at dusk,
and her language is your language is the way
tenseness melts is the way her lips meet yours
is the way the only word either of you needs
      is yes.

And this should scare you.
This, the way she reads your vertebrae
  like a blueprint; this,
how she infiltrates you, traces paths
along your jaw, crawls into
every neuron of you, makes you tremble,
makes you shiver, as if she's
researched you—maybe she has—as if
she knows you, has known you—
   and who's to say she hasn't?

But you lean into her anyway,
  arrow bent by the wind,
two degrees off target,
      and missing
has never felt so good.

5

Later, when your mind is not your own, when blue
your soul is blue, when blue your veins are blue,
when blue the edges of your pupils sing blue,
she flashes redder than sunsets balanced
      on the crosshairs of a church spire.

You didn't kill her that time.
            You won't kill her this time.

And sorry you want to mouth sorry, I'm sorry,
I'm sorry for all this. That touch you craved
becomes a touch whose destruction you crave
and sorry the bands around your arm
are too tight and sorry your quiver
presses hard against your back and sorry
you quiver, you quake, and sorry, sorry, sorry—


She strikes you,
      splits a red horizon across your mind,
and blue crashes against your temples,
      scrabbles for a hold, spreads ten thousand wings,
            beats oilslick napes into one shadow.

                        Your world goes black.

6

this is you this is you this is you
and this is a mantra beating
against your skull, trembling as if to fill you
   with remembrance.

When she is this close, she fades into
the accumulation of familiar shapes.
The one you fell in love with
  is the one who is sharp around the edges;
the one with you now
  is the one whose boundaries blur,
who smiles, who knows when to free you,
   whose words
      return you.

She leans into you.
Light dips into the notch of
   her cupid’s bow.
She pulls back the line of
your lower lip;
   her hand cupping your face
draws your entire body taut.

When she is this close,
    it’s only force of habit
   that keeps your eyes open.
You never told her, but she knows—
  of course she knows. Her eyelashes flutter
against your skin, paint sparks
 along your cheeks, and maybe your eyes
aren’t so useless here.

You don’t need to know every detail of her
   to love her.

The rush of green flooding your vision
as she looks straight into you
   is enough.