(for Mohammed Mohiedin Anis)
The man smokes a pipe amidst ruin, the light
from the shattered bay windows exquisite.
Five years back, the slatted blinds were whole,
the furniture white, and not from plaster dust.
Neighbors used to wave from the opposing
balconies. He could open curtains to let them in.
The books were his darlings, not water damaged,
not flung. The samovar came down for guests,
tea around a table, not rubble. How proud he was
of this space, the way his thoughts could move in it,
the way conversations had room to nestle in its basket.
At seventy, he may not live to see it rebuilt,
so he accustoms himself to brokenness.
His hand-cranked Victrola still works.
He listens to a requiem, of course.
He is a cultured man.
Devon Balwit is a poet and educator from Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Oyez, The Cincinnati Review, Red Paint Hill, The Ekphrastic Review, Trailhead Magazine VCFA, The Prick of the Spindle, and Permafrost.
Image via Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images, 2017. Reproduced under Section 107 of the Copyright Act.