Over Drinks


Tara Skurtu

This morning I was thinking about mint,
I told the playwright. Could be a good first
line of a poem, he said. I stirred my drink
and asked how the premiere of his modernized
Hungarian Romeo and Juliet went. Brutal—
before it even began, the actors threw
him to the foyer floor! It was staged
but no one knew, nobody tried
to help. Half the critics went home
and trashed the play that night.
But this means it works! I said.
What is meaning but a sword aimed
at flesh—sometimes I hate it as I’d hate
hell. I prefer purgatory. Who wouldn’t
want a little extra time on the way
to becoming your best eternal self?
Fresh mint came to mind in the shower.
This summer, at the shore of the Black
Sea, one of my best friends told me
she couldn’t stand the smell of it
for years. After her husband died
in an accident, his decomposing body
was on view in the dining room
for three days. Maggots in his nostrils.

Bags of ice weren’t enough.
She picked mint in the hot yard
and laid bunches around the corpse.
In Romanian, to rub mint is to do
absolutely nothing. How selfish of us
to want to outlive ourselves. How selfish
am I to write down my life and expect
others to relate. To think I ordered mint
in my lemonade for years—muddled it
with my straw, chewed whole leaves
—and my friend never said a word.