Line Breaks

Frank Guan

so i went to another event
at a book store
my friend was on a panel
devoted to a writer
whose daughter had translated his novella
“Pushkin Hills” into american—

but my friend wasn't there
his older sister had replaced him
no one had noted the change
they all accepted how it was and i did too
russians and americans and jews
all hard to tell apart here
except for two black people male and female and myself

the discussion anyway
laughter smiling love—
for dovlatov they read their favorite
paragraphs of dovlatov they said
why they adored him so much i too belatedly
decided i had come to celebrate dovlatov
it was really strange

hearing masha say precisely and
very matter-of-factly that “everyone” in
russia had read dovlatov
and to feel with a mysterious clarity
that everyone was
really everyone without exception—
strange and new

where did you get that the black man asked me
seeing my new copy of “Pushkin Hills”
at the counter i said
the price is insane though man
twenty-four dollars—he and his
friends laughed and i smiled lightly and left
aside from anya ulinich i knew no one there

and anya was a panelist and occupied and i had only met her once
and wasn't sure she remembered
so i left feeling whatever i felt
walked east to york and started reading on the train
below the only place you ever read it seems like
then not long after came up with reasons why
can't anyone here write—