The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 5 no. 1


Colleen J. McElroy

A Skadarlija Walk in Three-Quarter Time


3 hats, 3 pigs, 2 fishermen and the stones
   in double rows of quaint cafes lined up 2 X 2
   for what could be any square in Greenwich or Soho
   the look the ’50s the first time round
count the wooden signs clanking like 100 tongues
count the taxis hungry for riders
   but do not count on the moon’s light
   caught in this Balkan claptrap of stones
   or poets walking aimless and foreign
   in a country of endless walking and smoking
count only cafes called 3 pigs, 2 fishermen
a bad fiddler and a horn
   the wheels of thick farmer’s bread
   the lambs skinned and hung like long-necked chickens
   hooked in place and round and round, the humps of stone
count heroes lounging in Slavic poses, cigarettes in place
   their women of little drinks and many sweets
   the paths cleared for lovers walking hand-in-glove
   their eyes on the moon flicking against stones
   like patterns in a gypsy’s scarf
the usual dreck of moonlight and stones
lovers and shadows, fiddlers and sorrow
now count gypsies begging for small change
   in a country that holds little money
   their language so old it holds only vowels
count the words that echo against my tongue clean
   as the bad boots of that pigeon-toed poet
   walking beside me past guarded eyes
   where I may be African, American even
count the looks that pass between us
   the sweet cakes glazed in animal fat
   the goat’s cheese, bouquets of radishes
   cevapcici and wine
count the hundreds of bridal gowns in a town
   where no wind blows harder than war
   and stones marry sorrow
ask my landlord who married the baker’s daughter
ask the bread that sits on the table
   the tubs of spongy cheese
ask the women who stare at me and wonder
   the men who stare and mutter
   the gypsies married to stone
   my blackness wedded to their eyes