Narrative Prism

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Contributor: Brian Glaser

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I looked forward for days
to the demonstration at my university against xenophobia.
When it began,
two hundred students and a few others
gathered on the steps in our plaza.
They raised their fists in silence.
They chanted and sang; a few spoke.
I stood in a sweater in the February sun.
In the middle of the demonstration a friend,
also a colleague, came up behind me
and touched my elbow.
We exchanged hushed words about her infant granddaughter.
She was a student activist in Argentina
and was a political prisoner for more than two years.
She has written many novels and a book of poems.
Standing beside her, I began to experience
the event through my ideas about her reactions.
I looked for her expressions from time to time,
waiting for her to smile,
to applaud like everybody else,
to change her uncharacteristic look of hardened sadness.
After the event ended, we made plans for our monthly lunch.
Then I asked her, “What were you feeling?”
She said that memories came back to her of her participation in protests,
of being accompanied by professors.
They paid, too, I said.
Yes, she said, yes, they paid.
And now, she said, we are really in trouble.
And I have just heard that a friend from those days, she said, has died.
I am so glad you were next to me at this event, I said.
She smiled unguardedly for a moment
and then looked searchingly in my eyes.
At a loss, I disappointed her.
We’ll talk at lunch, I said.

As I was leaving I walked past an economics professor
who has taught at my school for fifty years.
He was seated alone on a stone bench
at the far end of the plaza.
Hello, Professor Booth, I said.
No one will answer my question, he said.
What is your question? I said.
Do you lock your house at night?
Yes, I lied.
Do you think about the homeless people you are keeping out,
the hungry people you are not feeding?
As a teacher of literature, I said, awkwardly,
I ask students to think about metaphors,
how they are appropriate and how they are not.
I don’t think that is an apt metaphor.
Do you invite everyone into your home? he said.
Even people who are not your friends?

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Brian Glaser has had a writing practice for twenty five years. He's published over sixty poems, translations, essays and reviews.


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