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Sheenagh Pugh
b. 1950

Karl Schlechter

I want to stroll with Karl Schlechter
in nineteen-hundred, down a street of stone

the sun's turned to honey. From some window
a piano's playing slow, and Karl's sad eyes

kindle a little. I ask about his chess,
why he always offers a draw,

and he shrugs. White pigeons gurr
on the sills. "I hate that look in men's eyes

when they lose." I love him. We buy cherries
from a stall, morellos, dark, half-bitter,

and feed them to each other. I kiss him,
tasting them in his mouth. I want to tell him

"Karl, you die starving, at forty-four,
and you could be world champion. Play to win."

But then he wouldn't be who he is,
and I wouldn't come all the way

from the next century to hold hands
with the drawing master, watching

the light slant, hearing pigeons hush,
one by one, into sleep. Gentleman; gentle man.


© Sheenagh Pugh
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