I can’t recall why.  Or when I bought

Hippocrates’ Epidemics.  I was on  

a tangent that should have taken me east

of Athens to Perinthos on the Sea of Marmara.

To get there, I would have to stop over

in Crannon. About Crannon, I know

nothing, which is basically how I’ve

always traveled. Floundering from 

country to country.  Blind to where I was going.

After Italy, why not Hungary?

I passed the time surrounded by

Soviet architecture. Buildings

stripped of ornament uniformly at war

with old world charm.  My host, a woman

and her boy. He didn’t walk, couldn’t feed

himself.  His silence. Her patience.

I felt oddly blessed and cursed. Lightning.

I’ve been struck more than once. Spinoza’s

famous question: What can a body do?

Bite my tongue. The toll it takes

to come back from the dead.

On the phone, I hear my partner offer

his sympathies. There’s been a significant

uptick in requests for advance directives.

The neighbors left for Charlotte a week

after the schools closed. To read the mail,

we put on gloves. The house reeks of chlorine.

We’re still under orders to hunker down.

For how long, no one knows.

When this is over, I hope to visit Perinthos,

a hanging cliff-town in Turkey, overlooking

a luminous sea, harboring every

ounce of light the heavens will spare.


When sleep up and leaves

like a bad break-up,

I move in and out

of thoughts as if switching

between subway cars—

interiors sprayed wild

with pieces and tags,  

signatures from the underground.


You are also a work of art:

Latin cross, broken heart,

ball & chain branded on your arms.

Boldly, I showed you where a razor

sliced my cheek as a child, remembering

my mother holding a bloody towel

to my face. I was two, maybe three. 

That scar, a perfect convergence 

of her art and frustrations.


I’ve seen what aspiring to artistic greatness

does to the body. The damage.


On your back, I draw with my fingers.

We did that a lot, lying in bed, playing 

word games—and slept. Our weekends,

hours in hibernation.


Now we kiss goodnight and close

the doors to different rooms.

The bed is strewn with magazines.

The mattress treats me as an unwanted guest.

The window looks on with indifference.


They call the riskiest places to tag “heaven spots.”

If sleep were only kinder, I’d think less—

and leave the past, with its untimely

arrangements, behind in some far-off distance. 



Kathryn A. Kopple works in English and Spanish. Her writing has been published in numerous magazines, including the Bellevue Literary Review, The Threepenny Review, and Easy Street Magazine. “Rubik’s Cube, Six Twisted Paragraphs” appears in the anthology The Shell Game: Writers Play with Borrowed Forms. She is the author of two novels, Little Velásquez and The Leaving Years.