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Tangents by Karen Alkalay-Gut
published in Volume 1, Issue 1 on January 15th, 1994

I 

All day she passes her hands
over the money of others,
counts out what they will need
for the business trip to Tokyo,
the honeymoon in Turkey, the
needed vacation (look how
his hand shakes) in Lugano.
All day she counts out foreign 
bills, with no will of her own
to sit in this bank
so near and yet so far.

II

So one night I'm a character
in some guy's dream
and my part is not very big
and I don't speak his language
so most of the time I'm backstage
waiting for the moment I get called out
and jabber a few words in French
to a dreamer's blank face.
I don't get the incentive -
I say to whom I think is the director.
What am I doing in this dream -
what's my function, motivation, Stan?
The man widens his eyes
and dies, or fades away while I watch.
So there I am, behind the scenes, thinking - 
don't I have something better to do
with my time

III

So one night she comes to visit me
and I see it in the way she stares 
- she's locked back into that old obsession.
Maybe she isn't but I've got to protect
myself  I can't stand it when she starts 
in about our 'relation
ship.'  We don't have one, I say sometimes,
but it hurts me to hurt her almost as much
as it hurts to imagine feeling in her situation.  
God she lives
through me the way my mother did in the old days
- the only son, the fear of my turning, anticipation 
of my return.  How can I tell her to get a life -
how can I reel her out into the night and say
find something to sink
your teeth into.

IV

How do people get to mean things to each other
how do they not miss falling into formulas, slip
out of prescribed patterns?  Sometime I am so slow
I don't know that someone was saying something meaningful
until minutes after I hang up.  Then maybe I call back
"Sorry for being such a boor - I should have known
your situation."  Then maybe she says, "What situation?"
and I see I'm an egomaniac thinking my responses 
could be so critical to her.  Or maybe she just says it
to protect herself from my ill-bred intrusion.  And then maybe
I take that risk and stretch out my neck just a little more
and offer her the nape.  

V

And here I am out here on a limb of a tree by your bedroom
shivering in the rain and trying to figure out what to do 
now that you have refused to open the window.

Here I am at my funeral looking up at your tears.
It's a standard photo but the people are real.

Here I am at the center of the dancefloor, 
pulling you in out of the shadows 
for your moment in the spotlight.

Here is the lonely monarch, her back to the camera,
alone

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