Poems by Jaya Savige
for Peter Gizzi
We sit to a bowl of miso ramen,
same as the night before, only this time
you’re coming down with something
and need the chilli. Later we’ll sketch
a brief history of risk, the word’s
first appearance in a seventeenth-
century translation of the Lusiad,
the Portugese retelling of Homer
with da Gama as Odysseus; how
mortality data drawn from the plagues
in England gave birth to actuarial
science, and Halley, of comet fame
crunched the numbers for the seeds
of life insurance — the epistemic
shift from the providential view
that meant you’d sooner sacrifice
a goat before a trip than trust in
numbers. These days we rationalise:
what’s the probability of the plane
falling out of the sky? You’re far
more likely to be struck by lightning.
Did I tell you my father died in a plane
crash? you’ll say, and I — mortified
by my hypothetical, nodding as you
explain your penchant for Xanax
on cross-Atlantic flights — think back
to this moment, ladling miso into
our mouths, steam rising in winter,
you explaining how you nursed
your dying mother this September
and muttering, half under your breath:
Dying is so expensive in America.
Dransfield in Bavaria
In the high land of the swan
autumn burns a path to Neuschwanstein,
castle of the mad king who had stars
cut into his bedroom ceiling, then
lit them with candles to soothe him
when he woke from bad dreams.
Blackbirds are speaking German techno
again, trilling glitches. Our eskimo
friend spills his gluhwein on the snow:
wildberry birthmark, blood-red Rorschach,
enough to suspect a discarded carcass
nearby, an eviscerated swan: fox news.
Pan’s stone flute glued with ice.
Munich’s cold slap shocked us
exiting the Hauptbahnhof. Now
we photograph the frozen fountain,
flicking to macro to capture the sun
jinxing the ice in beads of focus.
All-you-can-eat sushi surprised us
over the Starnbergersee. We digest
in the cemetery. Wintry pneumatics:
air hisses as you untwist a Sprite.
Cue the mechanised hedgehogs
and lambs of the shopfront nativity.
On the train from Gmund, you look up
from your book at acres of crisp snow
and think of the man whose Beethoven
ringtone interrupted the guide’s explanation
that morning at Small Fortress, Terezin.
The children cry Tannenbaum! Tannenbaum!
To quit heroin you have to leave the country,
the novelist says with a wink.
I wonder what you would have made
of Europe. What I’d have made of junk.
I guess I’ve never truly understood
the romance of those ruins of the blood.