HPN

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Poetry of Issue #8        Page 11

'Kafka Dreams of Milena
(In the 1920s, Franz Kafka wrote obsessive letters
to Milena Jesenská, who later died at Ravensbrück.)

He thinks he is she and she is he,
a blending so Mayan,
as in “I am you, and you are me,”
so combustible, she catches fire

and Franz must beat her
with his coat to smother the flames,
except now he’s on fire,
a metamorphosis,

beating himself. They are creatures
of blaze until the truck comes
to save them, blasting its horn.
Then she is a chalky ghost, gaunt

against the darkness. She reminds him
there is the matter of the husband.
Franz will write her letters
and more letters, feverish letters.

He will not caress her.
Loving her cuts him, like
grabbing a bread knife.
He only loves what he shouldn’t touch.

Susana H. Case