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Interpreting

March 24, 2019

We had little to do at first
except avoiding one another’s eye
with manufactured hurt –
as one of the Russians (quietly) remarked:
translating stony silences
is harder than you’d think.

When Khrushchev demanded Ike apologise
for what was practically an act of war
Ike made like nothing had been said –
though we’d all heard it had,
and I’d repeated it
so I was sure.

But Khrushchev wouldn’t let it go:
it was yet more proof he couldn’t trust the West,
so what was the point of this?
Then Ike said we’d had no choice
because we can’t trust you –

and so the summit went:
an injured silence interspersed with versions of
it’s all your fault,
until the Soviets said that’s that and quit the room
and Paris, too.

I heard all both sides said out loud –
said half of it myself, in fact –
but cannot say if either asked himself
how his opponent felt, nor how
to help him help make this all right.

Published in a Hedgehog Press Stickleback edition

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