by Benjamin Balthaser
On Jaffa Street, I watched Russian
mobsters beat a man to death
in front of a bar. The sound
of the pipes striking bone
was strangely hollow, long
boxes of darkness that drifted
down the empty street.
All that was left of the beaten man
was gauze and the black
triangle of a respirator, tangled
in its own cord like a stunned
crow caught in a net.
The name of my friend is gone
like the war in Africa he
he soldiered. We quarreled pointlessly
about Hemingway for over an hour —
he insisted there was no abortion,
and no end to their troubles.
Like the story, the train
has a way of coming regardless.
The town on the Mediterranean
was not beautiful. Little rock boxes
and stucco huts and seagulls with
with bright red feet. The friend
didn’t make it either: too many walls
between himself and home. “I killed
boys with empty rifles,” he
said. His sweat was vodka, no salt.
When we said goodbye at sunset,
I could see the dividing line
between the shore and the water
like a dark shroud wrapping
an even darker body.
Benjamin Balthaser’s creative and critical work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Massachusetts Review, Boston Review, Minnesota Review, Laurel Review, the anthology _What Saves Us_, and elsewhere. Balthaser’s 2012 book of poems, Dedication, details the lives of blacklisted Jewish activists during the McCarthy era, and his 2016 book from University of Michigan Press, Anti-Imperialist Modernism, explores connections between cross-border, anti-imperialist movements and the making of modernist culture at mid-century. Balthaser is currently an associate professor of multi-ethnic literature at Indiana University South Bend and lives in Chicago.