Rijeka, Croatia, Yugoslavia
We feel foreign and poor, tiny bars of soap, hose shower, a handle coming off the bathroom door, soft gray outline of Krk, your father’s island, humped beyond the shipping’s smokestacks, masts, aerials, the Jadrolinija ferry’s big red star. From the window I’m snapping photos of municipal buildings, arranging shadows in façades, smog swirling from Fiats made in Poland. It’s a regular city, people rushing to work, shops opening at 8 a.m., on the wall of a building the same scarlet fuck you from the walls of the D train in the Bronx, on every wall from Berlin to Belgrade. At breakfast, there’s a family curve in the bridge of the nose of the girl pouring sludgy kafa, this girl who resembles our daughter. I think of the woman in black approaching us at Rijeka Station, renting rooms, her face lined with the broken lace of doilies, antimacassars. Her voice a darkened parlor. Outside, I snap the entryways of apartment houses, street signs, moving uphill toward the Austro-Hungarian governor’s palace, its open-armed rooftop crucifix since 1948 a star. We’re stopped by a young soldier, arms crossed, scowling. I say good morning, dobro jutro, and we move off. He follows. Now he's saluting men with stars on their caps. A breeze blowing up the coast from Dubrovnik the soot of war. We wait to be arrested. Don't know what we're doing wrong.