Olga the Magnificent

You wake to windows slashed by icy rain
………….and think back to a huddle of men
……………………..humped under flapping plastic
………….wrapped in weeks-old news
a few blocks south of 110th
………….their cheeks raw and their hands
……………………..their ears pressed to the steaming mouths of subway grates
………….listening for answers that never come
or come in a language none of them speaks.

If one could rise and stop you
………….hustling back to the room you lease
……………………..from the one-eyed Ukrainian crone
………….if one could reach across three decades
now to grip your arm
………….before you climb four flights to the hag of Lviv
……………………..with her stacks of Pravda clotting the halls
………….her drafty windows and glassed glass eye
guarding the worthless keepsakes while she sleeps

how would he address you
………….what would he ask?
……………………..Not if it’s still possible to see by the light
………….streaming through holes in Lorca’s chest
as he wanders the woods of his execution, singing.
………….Not if the different maps engraved on our palms
……………………..all lead to the same lost city.
………….He’d ask if you’ve come across her
the love of his mangled life

Olga the Magnificent
………….The Soldier’s Dream
……………………..Olga of Broadway and 110th
………….of Sunday night mass in St. John the Divine
strolls in Morningside Park.
………….Before you can swear
……………………..you’ve never met her
………….he tells how she made him feel as free as wind
pouring through Carpathian mountains

but also as trapped as wind
………….in a narrow alley sprayed with pee
……………………..before you withhold the number of the apartment
………….before you lie and not know why

he wonders out loud if she still fondles
………….those few loose threads of the Iron Curtain
……………………..still plays Scriaben on the phono.
………….How can you not confess to sleeping down the hall
in the room of powder blue?

How can you hand him twenty bucks
………….and turn to go, after he tells
……………………..how the night fell, the snow darkened,
………….between them?
Maybe you should call ahead, ask
………….if you can bring a guest,
……………………..a Ukrainian Jew, you think,
………….or a Pole. Maybe you should say he talks
of home, like her, as two halves

of a hacked apple, two hunks of torn bread.
………….No, already his face is becoming a smudged
……………………..fingerprint on a mirror, a smear of moon
………….behind cloud. Already, you’re folding inward,
afraid in that American way to lead him
………….to the fourth floor of his dreams,
……………………..to tell Olga to close her eyes, the good
………….one and the lost, while you introduce a man you met
on the street, a man who thinks he knows her.

Gregory Fraser

Gregory Fraser

Gregory Fraser is the author of four poetry collections: Strange Pietà (Texas Tech University Press, 2003), Answering the Ruins (2009), Designed for Flight (2014), and Little Armageddon (2020), all from Northwestern University Press. He is also the co-author, with Chad Davidson, of the workshop textbook Writing Poetry (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008) and the critical writing textbook Analyze Anything (Bloomsbury, 2012). His poetry has appeared in journals including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, and The Gettysburg Review. Fraser is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Gregory Fraser

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Author: Gregory Fraser

Gregory Fraser is the author of four poetry collections: Strange Pietà (Texas Tech University Press, 2003), Answering the Ruins (2009), Designed for Flight (2014), and Little Armageddon (2020), all from Northwestern University Press. He is also the co-author, with Chad Davidson, of the workshop textbook Writing Poetry (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008) and the critical writing textbook Analyze Anything (Bloomsbury, 2012). His poetry has appeared in journals including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, and The Gettysburg Review. Fraser is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.