Letter from Amsterdam by Ross Losapio

Letter from Amsterdam
As I write, three boys are playing poker
in the corner with a deck of nudie cards.
The naked women shush over each other
as they’re shuffled, whisper secrets

from other lives. Can you imagine? Playing
cards when the real thing is out on the canals,
beckoning for their attention, their wallets
and bulges. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so

crude. Is that why my letters return unopened?
The prostitutes in the Red Light District
call out to me when I walk in the morning,
but I’ve been good. They swat at the glass

like manatees at the aquarium. You told me
once that sailors mistook those for mermaids
long ago. I think that happens here, too,
when night falls. Beggars, so far, leave me

alone. Maybe they sense that I am broken,
like them. You wouldn’t like me saying that,
I know. Yesterday, I opened the hostel door
and a cat sauntered in as if it had a bed

reserved. It smelled of burnt lemon
rinds and blood and I thought about the night
you perfumed yourself for me. The owner’s
daughter shrieked and chased it with a knife

that cut the air in front of me into thin ribbons, all
the way from the kitchen. I know even a single flea
could be the end for them, but I wish I could stop
thinking about what happened next. That whole night,

a German fellow on mushrooms kept asking
me if I saw colors and faces in my dreams.
Then, without pause, he asked if I dreamt at all.
He drove me crazy with his questions

and fractured English so I read my braille
mathematics textbook for six hours, to anchor
myself in its numbers. I was on mushrooms, too.
I wasn’t going to tell you that, at first.

I was going to pretend that this trip was all
about tulips, Van Gogh Museum audio tours,
and wooden shoes. You would have believed me, too,
or acted like it, at least. But I’m tired of that.

I’m composing this letter to you in my mind
because all my notebooks have been stolen
from my bunk. It doesn’t matter. This is the only way
I can reach you anymore, anyway.

About the Poet
Ross Losapio is a graduate of the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as Lead Associate Editor for Blackbird. His poetry appears in Copper Nickel, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the minnesota review, The Emerson Review, and elsewhere.