Wednesday, October 09, 2019

The Stranger

Louis Kasatkin (right) with the Mayor of Wakefield, 
Councillor Charlie Keith
—Poems by Louis Kasatkin, Wakefield, W. Yorkshire, England


The Stranger with the shabby overcoat
and hangdog expression asked me
if I could spare him a few reminiscences,
I replied that the change in my pockets
changes with the changing tide,
though I could offer him
some reflections instead;
The Stranger sat back in his chair
ordered himself another absinthe
and began whistling some nameless tune
while he waited for his drink to arrive;
”If all our pain and sorrow
only came on the morrow
would we set the alarm late
or not at all?
taking the chance that
vicissitudes had all
somehow passed us by
while we were fast asleep.”
”And were we to store all
our tears shed in our lives,
how big would the bottle have to be?
Could we claim back some pennies
if we returned it empty?”
The Stranger glanced askance
at his watch where time had
stopped years ago,
he wondered aloud where
the waiter might’ve got to
with his drink?
”If we don’t feel the suffering of others,
how will we know if we have blood in our veins?”
The Stranger got up,
bid me adieu;
after he’d left
I saw in the mirror that
there was no longer a reflection there
of me.



”We meet again!”
the Stranger said,
the one I’d never met before,
sat alone at the pavement cafe
he asked me if I would
like to wallow in nostalgia with him;
I said I didn’t reminisce
much these days though I
occasionally enjoyed a fond memory;
Ordering an espresso, he spoke
of his parents and the War,
I interjected with academic achievements
and holidays abroad;
He said he couldn’t remember them,
though he was sure he’d seen me
once whilst in Amsterdam;
I said I’d never been and whoever
it was he saw it wasn’t me;
Finishing his coffee the Stranger got up
and turning to me said,
there was only one other time he was sure
that he’d seen me,
curious, I asked him when?
In the bathroom mirror
that time I hesitated
with the cut-throat razor
and fear in my eyes…



I recall him saying,
”of all the possible possibilities isn’t it possible
that there being no possibilities is amongst them?“
To which I countered,
”We cling obsessively to those pieces of a jigsaw
we’ve somehow come to accumulate by chance,
accident or ulterior design, only for those pieces
never to fall into place or even bear any resemblance
to a discernible outline or pattern or a promise of coherence.“
I contemplate the solitary glass of absinthe
that sits forever stationary on a marble-top table,
un-paid for and un-drunk until The Stranger returns,
and quaffs it savouring the liquid’s unique indifference
as it surges down his gullet;
We are only led to imagine such things
because we imagine that the Stranger,
long since absconded into the obscurity of the world-at-large
might somehow re-appear unannounced as if by chance,
fate or ulterior design,
And then we might recommence the desultory dialogue,
the Stranger and me
that dialogue which he chose peremptorily to abandon
with his trademark flaneur disquieting insouciance;
and so I sit and toy with the pieces of jigsaw
left me as a memento or perhaps not,
some pieces are clearly missing and
the glass of absinthe requires that I pay for it.



There he sat,
in the place where he sat
the last time that we spoke
all those years ago;
And there he sat
as if he’d never left
and the years hadn’t passed us by;
”I’m still waiting for my absinthe that I’ve ordered”,
he ventured apropos of nothing,
his deprecating smile lingered
as he brushed some imaginary
cigar ash off the table;
A faint susurration arose
from a Greek Chorus somewhere
in the background of this
”Years in a desert of empty days,
years in a white nothingness,
Time itself marooned in
a white swirling fog“.
”Waiting…” the Stranger began,
my curiousity piqued, he continued,
”is the worst part of waiting “.
I concurred, which seemed
to set him at his ease,
though he glanced obsessively
at his pocket watch;
”Time flies and having flown
runs out of fuel and crashes
amidst the contretemps and vicissitudes
of our world“.
He once more glanced around for signs
of a waiter with the absinthe which he’d
ordered such a long, long time ago;
but no-one was forthcoming, and
overcome by ineluctable disappointment
he rose and bidding me adieu
swept with customary insouciance
from the cafe into the busy boulevard;
as I turned my gaze from the departing stranger,
I saw the waiter arrive with a tray
bearing a singular glass…


Today’s LittleNip:

There are no stranger here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.

—William Butler Yeats


Welcome back, Louis Kasatkin, and congratulations on your contributions to your community’s poetry scene! Louis was first featured in the Kitchen in March, 2016. He writes that his bio has expanded somewhat—most recently he planned, organized and directed an unfunded, alternate grassroots community, LitFest, in his city of Wakefield—the UK's 11th biggest city by population. He has appended a couple of pics on that, including one of him with the Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor Charlie Keith, at the official media launch of #WakeyLit19 held at Destiny Christian Church. Louis is the founder of Destiny Poets UK, and the Editorial Administrator of

Back on US soil, tonight from 5-7pm, Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around will meet at the El Dorado County Library, 345 Fair Lane, Placerville. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

—Medusa, celebrating poetry pals across the sea ~

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