Worth - Jack Gilbert
It astonished him when he got to Katmandu to hear
the man from the embassy say a friend was waiting
outside of customs. It was the Australian woman
he had met in Bali. His fault for running back
across the tarmac when he realized she was crying.
Kissing her while the plane waited with the door open.
Wanting her to feel valuable. Now she had used up all
her money flying to Nepal. Calling what had been
what it was not. Now lying awkwardly on the bed
for a month, marooned in the heat, the Himalayas
above the window. As he watched the delicate dawns
and the old women carrying too much firewood down
from the mountain on their backs. Him thinking of their
happiness up in the lush green terraces of rice.
Remembering her laughter as he came out of the shower,
saying the boy had come again with a plate of melon.
"He asked if you were my husband," she said, "and I
said you were my father." Her eyes merry. Now they sat
in cheap restaurants trying to find anything to say.
Remembering how beautiful she was the first time
coming through the palm trees of the compound at dusk.
Tall and thin in a purple dress that reached to her
bare feet. Watching while he played chess with
the Austrian photographer all night. Now calling
that good thing by the wrong name. Destroying
something valuable. Innocently killing backwards.