Iris is a translator living in Haifa, Israel.
© 2008 Iris Dan
The Romanian Flower Girl
Demurely she slides in
A pedophile's fantasy in clothes so out of date
she seems a disguise of a grown woman posing
as a pedophile's fantasy child.
Clutching the bunch of carnations
to the place where her breasts are not yet
she slides to our table; cajoles the men
into buying flowers for "their ladies"; puts her arms
around the neck of the one, the other, moistens her lips,
rubs them against their sweaty cheeks.
Dismissed, she sits on their laps until they give in,
pressing her smooth, heart shaped, probing vulva
against their flesh; her lips grimacing into the oldest,
coldest of smiles: triumph on the lap of the young one;
contempt on the lap of the other. Contempt also
when she answers me: "nine years old".
Transaction performed, the child slides away;
we remain to vent our righteous indignation.
Being a bleeding heart, my heart bleeds. I consider
reporting the case to the EU authorities.
At the next table
smoothly and professionally, obviously enjoying herself,
the child goes on selling carnations, imprinting her flesh
on the flesh of men. I think of Mozart and Nadia Comaneci
and other cases of carefully nurtured natural talent,
of dedicated childhood.
I wonder whether
this child prodigy will fulfill her promise, becoming,
as one of the women predicted, a highly-paid whore
(courtisane or demimondaine seems to me
better suited, and adding some Proustian flavor)
or whether, like so many other child prodigies,
she will fall into the obscurity of a nine-to-five job.
For the moment she enjoys her glory.
She performs her crucial task well: her family
can expect food on the table this evening; the men feel
desirable and virtuous, regulators of mores, exclusive
granters of favors; each woman has received a flower.
My heart, having bled a little, feels pure.
Remember that winter
when, apart from our handbags,
briefcases, umbrellas, and shopping,
we were also encumbered by gas masks?
After lavish start-of-the-year,
we retreated to the tribal womb.
By night, masks within reach,
we stayed in our sealed rooms,
watching the same news; by day
we dragged them around in their drab cases.
Children took them to school;
cabinet ministers to TV interviews
(how economically, how neatly
they could make their political point
if they were forced to reach for them
in the midst of a sentence!);
Masks of prostitutes and masks of clients
clashed together between sand dunes.
Masks dangled from Red Riding Hoods' shoulders
disturbing the cake and the wine.
Remember all those people in the concert hall
with the gas masks, like oversized phylacteries,
covering their faces, while a mask-less,
fearless Isaac Stern went on playing?
We were proud of our simple and cultured,
we were moved by our politicians. However
after a month or so,
we got fed up with all the tribal coziness;
we wanted our uniqueness back
we wanted, in short,
personalized gas mask cases.
Need identified, we got them
in all their splendid variety: black gas mask cases
to made proud a British civil servant;
pastel colored ones for maidens;
sequined ones for Cinderellas;
Cinderella-ed and Mickey Moused ones for children.
We inscribed them with appropriate captions,
"In spite of all, business as usual",
"Would you like to have a good time", or
"We have no one to trust, but our father in heaven".
Scuds and Patriots crossed each other over our heads,
Hitting this, missing that. Now and then
Someone had a heart attack. On top of all that
The weather was awful.
But there we were, making a statement.
All work is property of Iris Dan.
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