The Plums All Come at a Price

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Contributor: Frank Grigonis

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I’m reading this
poetry e-zine
when an ad
on the left-hand side
of the site
catches my eye.
The ad features
four Ukrainian girls
ranging in ages
from 19
to 30--
all plums
all more
than capable
of inspiring armies
of love poets,
the kind who
like to rhyme, and
this ad drags me back
to my flowery
love poems days,
when I once responded
to a similar ad
in the back of a
print magazine,
which led me to write
to a curvy, petite Ukrainian
with mesmerizing,
almond-shaped eyes.
This all happened after
a bad breakup
with a very material
American girl,
when I was both
young and
a long way
from wise,
so we exchanged letters
until finally
I sprang for
expensive telephone
between her and I
with a lady translator
who worked for that
Ukrainian Angels
Introductions Agency
who stunned me plenty
after one such call
after my charming “angel”
had already said goodbye.
The translator told me
That while my picture
looked pretty good
and I had an ok job,
the girl I’d been
just talking to, Annie,
was among the prettiest
in the entire catalogue
and that a girl “knows
her worth”
and she (the translator)
was only telling me
all of this, off the record,
because I seemed like such a
“nice guy.” So I listened
to her go on about
how all of their girls
are really
looking for a man
who makes at least
80-100 grand a year,
which was about
four times what I
made at the time. I laughed
and said, “You might as well
just put a price tag on them then.”
She surprised me by responding:
“God already has.”

So in my next letter
I told my Ukrainian
How much I really earned
and sent her a poem.
It was kind of a test.
She wrote back saying,
“Come and see me in Kiev,
my love.”
So I spent my savings
and flew to see that
she was as feminine
and charming as she’d been
In her letters and
even more lovely
in the flesh
than her photos.
It proceeded like a dream:
walking, talking (she knew
some English), and laughing
with Annie up and down
those cobblestone roads,
past colorful building,
and hand in hand
into historic churches.
Then she introduced me to
her friend, a tall, thin
blonde, but without Annie’s
magic, Asiatic eyes.
Later at the hotel
I booked two rooms:
one for me
and one for them,
but the night was young
so they came up to
my room with a bottle
of Vodka, and we all drank
and I drank more
because I’d read that
in the Ukraine
it’s considered an insult
not to drink
when offered, and
I vaguely remember kissing
Annie while her friend
rubbed my chest
until I agreed to take
them both to some
“disco” even though
I could barely stand.
They walked on either side
of me while I steadied myself
by putting an
arm around
each of them.
We were
barely outside
the hotel when
two guys wearing
leather jackets
started yelling something
in Ukrainian,
and before I knew it
they were on me.
I tried to defend myself,
but the vodka made that
even more hopeless
than it would have otherwise
After the first few
hard blows
to my face,
I was stunned
and couldn’t even
raise my fists,
but the blows kept coming
for what seemed like
a long time,
until both of my
attackers finally got
Annie helped me
back to my room
where she phoned room service
for a frozen steak
to put on the swollen
left side
of my face.
I knew it was
pretty bad when I saw
the look of sheer horror
on the Lady
who brought
the steak.
Annie stayed and
tended to my wound,
but it was to be
our last night together.
In the morning I
told her I loved her
and wanted to
marry her,
but she just sighed
and said maybe.
I only found out later
that her friend spent
that night with
one of my attackers
in the other room
I’d rented,
and that Annie
had other admirers
and visitors.
After I arrived home,
I wrote to her
one last time.
She never wrote back, and
the swelling
on the left side
of my face
never went down
all the way.
Now 12 years later,
when I see an ad
featuring Urainian girls
on my favorite
poetry e-zine,
I have to remind myself,
“Not this time.”
And I try to stay away
from flowery poems
that rhyme.

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Frank Grigonis writes. He is currently working on a novel.


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