by Mary Buchinger

                    :: a cement-block house down a grassy lane in the campo,
a shy woman, Rosa, who’ll hand-scrub and iron our underwear,
her fierce child, the youngest, naked, except for a torn t-shirt
slung caveman-style across one thin shoulder, but mostly this bed
—our bed—in the middle of their main room, humming
beneath a canopy of flies—the only language we all can follow
—and these next few months in this, our second year of marriage.

Children appear from nowhere, crowd around us, eagerly await
the unclicking of the suitcases. We say hola, one of a dozen words
we know in Spanish, and our audience titters. The bed is smaller
than the scored dining table it has replaced, narrower than
the two of us side by side. We’ll spoon in desperation, our feet
sticking out the end like Li’l Abner’s, but in three dimensions,
tangled flesh on a bony bed, corporal fight over real estate.

Kids, cats, pigs, wander in, dogs chase across our shared pillow.
Somehow, this isn’t foreign. No, we are. We become someone else
as we take turns changing clothes beneath the sheets, sheets stained
with fleabite blood, our eyes vigilant watching doorless doorways.
We must say something, I plead, as if we had the words, if not a door,
at least a curtain, it must be in the dictionary. Sleep’s private kingdom!
Ya mismo, Soon, is what we are learning in this country of Mañana—

Tomorrow—a sky of promise where everything may change. Mañana
splashes freely, laps up the warped legs of our little bed, threatens the    fleas
drunk on my blood, pledges a clean blanket, a room with walls, maybe    even
a bed that fits us. Sick of mañana, I turn on you, oh husband, you foreign    sore.
I knock on your heart, suspecting fleas, a font of fleas, whose bite I    attract,
bites that inflame. I dream in a language neither of us understands of a    marriage
turned spider—menacing, strange—legs so fragile, frantic with webs.

SOURCE: “Foreign” first appeared in Homesickness and Exile Anthology (Eds. R. Piercey and E. Wright).

PHOTO: The author washing clothes at Sra. Rosa’s house, Ecuador, 1986. (Photo by Stephen Bodwell)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem, “Foreign,” published in Homesickness and Exile Anthology, (Eds. R. Piercey and E. Wright), is about my time as a Peace Corps volunteer and moving into the home of a family in Ecuador for three months during our training. My husband and I didn’t speak any Spanish yet, and for our first week a small bed was set up for us in the dining room that doubled as a saloon. Anyone or anything — kids, pigs, goats, dogs, etc., entering the house had to go through our room, which had no door inside and no curtains; my husband and I were in our second year of marriage.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Buchinger is the author of two books of poetry, Aerialist (Gold Wake, 2015) and Roomful of Sparrows (Finishing Line, 2008).  Her work has appeared in AGNI, Cortland Review, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, Nimrod International, PANK, Salamander, Slice Magazine, Massachusetts Review and elsewhere. Visit her at MaryBuchinger.com.