LONDON, 1986

i. [Marx is Dead] — In a tin that once
held biscuits, I've shut away my souvenirs
of London: An oily scrap of newspaper
that still smells of fried cod, the key
to a flat on Spring Street, a chip
from a mossy tombstone in Hampstead Heath,
and a matchbox. I never open the matchbox,
for it contains everything else
I gathered there: An urge to scratch,
sorrow for a young skinhead I mistook
for a Nazi, and the safety pin I tore
from his cheek.


ii. [Der Weltuntergang] — Jonathan spent
a weekend in Amsterdam. He returned
with chicken pox. He gave them to Sarah.
She gave them to me. We each rode separate
trains on the underground. We three Americans
started a small plague in London.
We did not care, for it seemed the world
would soon end, anyway. This was not so hard
to imagine then, in the advent of AIDS awareness,
at the height of the Reagan-Thatcher era,
when all life on Earth depended on safe sex
and the sanity of the MAD Doctrine.
And in our newfound discomfort, writhing
against irrepressible itches, we cursed
the Dutch, who (like the British) blame
everything on the Germans.

This made sense. In a state of constant suffering,
the mind finds clarity, gleaming
logic to illuminate the fact that all paths
to suffering began somewhere in downtown Berlin.
East or West, it never mattered.
They're all German,
we said in delirious Queen's English,
which rhymes with vermin.

With this enlightenment, our tribulations
subsided, as did our rabid speculation
on Volkswagen's prominent role in Armageddon.

It was a valuable lesson: The world will
go on, albeit with misery and uncertainty.
During those moments of pain and doubt,
you'll find comfort in blaming the Germans
straight off. Or better yet, curse
the cheap bastard who saved a few guilders
with Amsterdam's most contagious whores.
His name is Jonathan.
Jonathan fucking Schmidt.

iii. [Accentuated] — I try to remember what
I expected from London. Nothing comes
to mind. I never thought to ask anything
of this city, but the city gave me more
than I needed. It gave me knowledge in liberal
doses, and with that scathing arrogance.
It taught me love for all horizons and disdain
for everything in the center.
In fourteen weeks, London gave me a new voice,
and with it an accent that discoloured
my native tongue.


Stephen Ausherman
The Adirondack Review
The St. Lawrence Book Award
The St. Lawrence Book Award
The St. Lawrence Book AwardThe St. Lawrence Book AwardThe St. Lawrence Book Award
The St. Lawrence Book Award
STEPHEN AUSHERMAN’s stories and essays have appeared in Nerve, Swink, The Sun, New Letters, Bullfight, The Korea Times, and elsewhere. He was selected as the 2005 Writer-in-Residence at Buffalo National River in Arkansas, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, and the Bernheim Research Forest in Kentucky. Ausherman is the author of two award-winning books: Restless Tribes, travel stories, and Typical Pigs, a novel. His next novel, Fountains of Youth, is slated for publication in 2006. Born in China and raised in North Carolina, he now lives in New Mexico. For more info, visit www.restlesstribes.com.