Two Poems by Benjamin Schmitt

On drunken tourism in foreign lands


There are only a few whiskey shots to go before you become a cliché

before you stumble on the cobblestones

with such wicked urgency

lights become attached to faces wearing garments of rain

buildings dance, twirling with cathedrals, before giving birth to McDonalds

you buy fries and spill them all over the ground

a taxi picks you up on a corner

you burp out an address

there’s a woman in the passenger seat

her and the driver talk in their own tongue

this cab swirls through the night

like a gust from the Yellow Sea

you are the burnt out cigarette butt caught up in this

force that travels through the neighborhoods of Seoul

you are left on the side of a highway you’ve never seen

after the driver and his female passenger have laughed in your face


There were times when you commandeered yachts on the Vltava River,

stealing the wine of elderly Italians

as your friends chanted the theme song to Indiana Jones

times when you passed the locals of Cuzco pissing on their monuments

as you conversed with Pablito in Spanish

laughing at jokes in a language you normally could not understand

times flirting with girls on the Nile River offering them illegal alcohol

we all smoked hash there together

oh Hafsa, does your desert star still float over the ruins of Cairo in the night

everywhere there are expatriates

getting drunk and avoiding each other’s eyes

carrying the shame of restlessness

they’re all looking for something

on the dance floor of the most popular club in town

National Emergencies will be declared

when you cease your wanderings

third-world economies may collapse

if you decide to settle down back home

where there is always a job, a city, and a group of friends waiting for you

but this country is the alcohol that dilutes those attachments

it makes you forget who you are as you buy shots for the bar

and everyone smiles at you because at least you believe it

that a plane is a womb that can recreate someone over an ocean

that the same mistakes surely cannot be repeated in different time zones

and then one day you wake up with a really awful hangover

walking amongst the poplars, you see yourself

Maddening thunder


the barista at my local coffee shop

has a degree in philosophy

he is always talking about Descartes

and all I want is twenty ounces of the French roast

the woman bagging my groceries

once studied biology

the school she attended was really hard to get into

she asks me "paper or plastic?" and we discuss the properties of each

the woman who develops my film

has a master of fine arts in photography

she wonders how long it will be before everything just goes digital

and for better or worse she won't have to wear a uniform at this drugstore anymore

the guy who processes my payment at the phone company

has a Bachelor's degree in education

he taught ninth grade for a year in Harlem before quitting

to take a job which would pay him enough to live

our waitress this evening put on a performance

worthy of all those accolades she earned at her university's theatre

for we were drunk and obnoxious and sent our food back twice

she has played Ophelia and Desdemona and a server concerned with the taste of my steak


when the last of the oil runs dry

when the internet permanently goes down

when thieves and brigands rule the night

and cities burn down to their foundations

I'm not sure my customer service skills will help me

forage for food, though they may provide me a way

of escaping a beheading

oh post-apocalyptic baby

oh fair-haired technology-dependant lady

can you hear the maddening thunder of our denial

can you see the lightning that wrenches apart the very stars

will I be sitting in the safety of my cubicle when the sky goes ashen

when the waters of the bay fill up with dead fish

how much time passes us as we look out beyond these counters

how many rays of sunlight are wasted, that we will never feel

there is so much going on out there, legions of shouting men, fleets of traffic

sometimes you just have to run

while you can still see Disneyland




Ryan Francesconi