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Invitation

I like to go to a park and sit

on a bench, especially a stone bench,

talk with someone who also sits

staring at nothing in particular,

but people here, when they go to sit

in a park, do not like to converse,

afraid that a person next to them

may suddenly, after a simple question:

do you live around here, say: I want you

now to give me all your money

or I’ll rip your fucking heart out,

which is rather absurd, at first

such an ordinary thought is registered,

as if intended for someone to open

his lonely heart and tell a story

about his wife who died of breast cancer,

first the left having been removed,

destroying a balanced life habit,

then the right to even things out,

and follow that with the image

of a sacrificial offering to gods,

while a leopard in the cage feels

it could do that more mercifully.

My grandfather died on a stone bench,

but that’s another story, already told.

An old man sits at the other end,

gripping the armrest with both hands

as if afraid of his own presence here,

while his eyes dart across the roofs

of a freight train cars in the distance:

I was taken from a park like this,

straight to the station, meine Frau

this way, me that way, the park

is verboten for us, but it’s our Jortog,

farschtein sie, I should not bring her there.

That’s why I was condemned to live.

I tell you this I see it on your face,

you went through something like that, true?

That’s a shrapnel wound, and I know one.

I cover my scar with my hand and feel

the heart pulsate through the satiny skin.

We were sacrificed to life, I want

to say, remembering one of my lines;

yet I ask him: Would you like to have

a cup of coffee with me, and he mumbles,

still looking straight ahead: I never take

anything with me, kein Gelt, afraid,

but of what? They kill you sometimes

if you have it or not. I smile, keep silent

for a while, staring in the same direction,

through the sparse trees I navigated blindly

and hear the zing of a single bullet

penetrate my hand, leaving underneath my life

line mangled. And I see my grandfather sitting

on the roof of one of the box cars, gazing

at nothing, his chin resting on his knees

as the train carried him back to dying.

It’s all right, I say; I don’t have any money

either, but we could still have a cup of coffee.

One day, he tells me. A cup of tea I’d prefer,

two lumps of tsuker on the side, just for show.

about the author

Mario Susko, a witness and survivor of the war in Bosnia, lives in the U.S. and teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from SUNY at Stony Brook in the ’70s and is the author of 22 books of poems. More recently his poems appeared in several British journals, The Interpreter’s House, Dream Catcher, magma poetry, The Ugly Tree, and the anthology In the Shadows, edited by H. Killingray; also in Nassau Review, Sonora Review, Wind, and 96 Inc. His poem, published and nominated by Dream Catcher, was short-listed for the 2004 Forward Poetry Prize in the best single poem category, and “Session in Progress,” published by The Paumanok Review (Summer 2004), was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His fourth book of poems in English, “Eternity on Hold,” will be released by Turtle Point Press in fall 2005.