might have been: for Maureen

Leonard Durso

you & I
will always be
in our early 30s
in LA
you up the road
from me
on Coast Highway
coming to work
at I&L
on Tuesdays & Thursdays
and me
spending too many evenings
drinking bourbon
in the Airlane Bar
across the street
and how life
might have been different
as you once mentioned
in Venice
if we had made
other choices
back then
all the men
at I&L
were a little bit
in love with you
but certainly no more
than me
I often wonder
if I had been sober
more often
had acted sooner
what might have
could have
happened
but we did
what we did
chose
what we chose
lived
as best we could
under the circumstances
but always
always in my mind
you are up the road
from me
overlooking the ocean
and I just never seem
to arrive
on the right day

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a fantasy: for Alex

Leonard Durso

I’m sitting on a train
going from one city
to another
in Italy
and a woman sits opposite me
wearing a blue dress
barely touching the knees
and heels
a scarf draped casually
around her slender neck
crosses her legs
leans back in the seat
and begins reading a novel
by Jose Saramago
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
in hardcover
in English
a sad smile lingers
on her lips
she stays intent on the book
not her cellphone
like so many I know see
a big plus in my ledger
and there I sit
rereading The Gospel According To Jesus Christ
and our eyes meet
just above our Saramagos
and words
which will come later
hang in the air
between us

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from Small Memories by Jose Saramago #2

Leonard Durso

The rain is pouring down, the wind is shaking the leafless trees, and from times past comes an image, that of a tall, thin man, an old man, I realise, now that he draws nearer along the sodden track. He is carrying a crook over his shoulder and wears an ancient, muddy cape from which drip all the rains of heaven. Before him go the pigs, heads down, snouts to the ground. The man approaching, blurred amongst the teeming rain, is my grandfather. He looks weary. He bears on his back seventy years of a hard life full of privations and ignorance. And yet he is a wise man, taciturn, one who opens his mouth to speak when necessary. Indeed he speaks so little that we all fall silent to hear him when a kind of warning light illuminates his face. He has a strange way of gazing into the…

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from Small Memories by Jose Saramago

Leonard Durso

There you were, grandma, sitting on the sill outside your house, open to the vast, starry night, to the sky of which you knew nothing and through which you would never travel, to the silence of the fields and the shadowy trees, and you said, with all the serenity of your ninety years and the fire of an adolescence never lost: “The world is so beautiful, it makes me sad to think I have to die.” In those exact words. I was there.

translated by Margaret Jull Costa

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“The Weary Road” Two Sections: Section 2 by Pao Chao

Leonard Durso

Have you not seen the grasses on the riverbank?
They wither and die in winter, overspread the road in spring.
Have you not seen the sun above the city wall?
It grows dim, sinks, and disappears;
The next day it will come out again.
Now, at what time in my life can I be like this?
Once gone, I’ll forever perish in the Yellow Spring!
Life is full of bitterness and scant in joy;
To be high-sprited belongs to the prime of life.
There’ll always be money at my bedside to buy wine.
To be immortalized in bamboo or silk is not what I want:
Life or death, honor or debasement, I leave to heaven.

translated by Irving Y. Lo

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“The Weary Road” Two Sections: Section One by Pao Chao

Leonard Durso

Water spilled on level ground
Runs east, west, south or north, and whichever way it pleases.
A man’s life is also governed by fate,
Then why must we always sigh as we journey and grieve as we sit?
Drink your wine to please yourself;
Raise your cup and forswear singing “The Weary Road.”
But since a man’s heart isn’t wood or stone,
How could it be without feeling?
Thus I weep, I hesitate, I dare not speak.

translated by Irving Y. Lo

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