The Merge

You and I

Walk a darkened road; shadeless,

Dimly lit by a street lamp,

That we have yet to reach.

You from that side, along the wall.

Me from this, along the curb.

You on the right.

Me on the left.


I anticipate

Your fear

With mine.

The one that knots my guts,

And lumps my throat,

And sweats my palms.

The one that you and I have almost always known.


Your father warned you about:

The thief, the murderer, the rapist.

My father warned me about:

The cheat, the liar, the oppressor.


We merge under the light.

You sidestep toward the wall.

I to the street.


My father said never to corner a wounded animal,

And we are the most dangerous kind.


© 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