Nazmia, William Fairbrother

HarvestHarvest, Z.Z. Wei



The Bulgarian woman who cleans, and
washes dishes  gets yelled at far over
the usual – she steals… we have a good
relationship, she actually likes me 
which Kenneth thinks sick  ‘she don’t like no one’

but there’s steel there  and is my lesson learned,
because I trust everyone, she had seen
how I placed black money in my backpack 
I just figured nobody will take things
in this society fruit-sellers fruit

the streets  booksellers let their wares hang out 
everyone is trusted  there is no theft 
and after my money was gone, I thought 
well, at least I’ll become better to hide
that sanguine message of what money is

She presented me with two worn lighters 
a gift, I was surprised, couldn’t figure
out, Why?  Then I realized this was how
she repaid me for my loss, her meek theft 
my strange suddenly holding on to all.

I am poor  she gets that, and has begun
slipping bills into my worn winter coat 
bit at a time  a mouse eschewing cheese.
Enemy of my spirit is spirit 
revenge a heartless deed  I need to eat.

William Fairbrother


Review by Pam O’Shaughnessy

This poem is a narrative which delves into the relationship between two poor workers, people on the edge of survival, one of whom steals from the other, in an almost Chekhovian set-up. The thief does not return the money, though her theft is discovered, but develops sympathy for her victim and even starts “slipping bills into my worn winter coat”. The victim decides not to be a victim. He won’t reveal her theft, deciding to accept the act without vengeful feelings, and to also accept the sympathy. This Bulgarian woman mimics the world, in its alternation of taking and giving. The speaker’s reaction is to not impede this natural flow. Revenge would be like taking revenge on himself. We are all like mice, the poem says, clutching our cheese, then “eschewing” it. I’m left with the rich feeling of having read a much longer narrative.



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