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Oliver Perrin

Oliver Perrin

The Music of Eastern Europe

by Oliver Timken Perrin


For Andrea Jurjević


The boots of Sultan
Tsar and Kaiser
leave muddy prints
on your mother’s breasts

Fanged wooden spires
rise like dog hackles
from the deep snow
that sometimes causes
frost-riddled gypsies
to drop from their trees
like stiff and staring fruit

Your sad fiddles
invoke immodest sorrow
with merciless reliability
because everyone
is missing a string

In the frostbitten hour
before dawn
ten thousand tiny hussars
flutter their wings
in your crooked wells

They’ve been waiting for Spring
for centuries

Your dancing masters
resort to strong drink
and minefield choreographies
to ensure their art survives

Your soil is fertile
blood makes it black
like krvavica sausages
or the rings that stain
Báthory tubs

Every bandit is a prince
and every prince a bandit
with a bulge in his pants
formed by a fat roll
of bills or what might be
red opera gloves
if it weren’t for the dripping

And wolf brothels
where boards beds and babes
all squeal like little pigs

Close your eyes and listen

The howling is beautiful.





I’m in a café

a refuge from
the damp chill and
acrid coal smoke

Istanbul in winter

a table for one
outside the circle
near the door
shoved in beside
narrow wooden steps
leaning upward

my spoon clacks
in the criss-crossed
narrows of Beyoğlu
5,771 miles from home

from foreigner or stranger
it’s only a stone’s throw to enemy

when Istiklal street
is less crowded
I draw suspicious eyes
simply because
I’m walking alone

they talk to each other
like the big family
I’ve never been part of
abi, abla, teze, amca
big brothers and sisters
bigger uncles and aunts

I humblehunch
over my cooling bowl
in the real fear
somebody will kick
crumbs and dirt
into my soup

women with long
red noses and scarves
come in just behind me
with an irritating bell jangle
with deep voices
and laughter
spinning threads of perfume
from full and heavy
heads of gleaming hair

the muddy shivers
trail them too
and sometimes snatches
of the evening ezan
summoning the faithful
to sock footed prayer
in rolling waves
from graceless bullhorns

I can’t resist
the furtive glances

puzzlement and longing
twisting my neck
to glimpse
the taught contractions
in the muscles of their legs
stomping upward

one pair of shoes
after another
passing in review
at eye level

it seems so strange
that they strain
to climb something
as mundane
as a few steps
to another floor

I can almost hear
their bones creaking

it seems so strange somehow
that they do not float.



A Postcard From Greece


In Thrace
on a slow
dirty train
a shirtless
young soldier
didn’t like me
with one wet eye
while the other
wandered drunk

I learned to say





Oliver PerrinOliver Timken Perrin is a native of the American South. His poems have appeared in Bohemian InkScapegoat Review, and the Negative Capability Press anthology Stone River Sky. Perrin also co-wrote the independent feature film Crude which received the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Film Festival Target Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative Feature and a Special Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival.