J. Manuel

A Politician’s Smile


A Romanian dancer;

Laced in black;

Stilettoed in the corner of my eye;

Sees me.

And I, with a smile, demur.

And she does not.


Four languages of love;

I manage two and mumble a third;

Her advantage.

I smile: coy.

She holds her gaze.


Bucharest, she says.

Ceaușescu, I reply.

Vaccines, inventions, Romantic alphabet, she explains.

I offer, Vlad Țepeș.

She sees me; uneven footing.


A dance?

How’s your math?

Do thick pockets matter?

They never have in Romania—

Not with my smile.


A pause; I pause;

She will not convince me.

I open;

Facts are needed to make decisions.

History, she replies;

You’ve made the one that matters;

It sits in the corner of your eye.


The music begins;

It thumps, grinds, and strains;

I smile.

A politician’s smile, she says.

A past life of compromise, I reply.

A shame, she says;

There are so many to be made.


© J. Manuel