Keith Payne

The yellow paisley scarf  

You’re sitting on a rock by the side of the road
I know you from the fag crutched in your hand,
the faded gold packet of Benson & Hedges you offer me.
I catch the cast of your eye and know you’re not there,
you’re elsewhere
where you’re life wasn’t stopped in its tracks.

Instead of falling to the floor that Sunday morning
– as they tell it
you picked up your paisley scarf,
patted your breast pocket for your smokes,
placed a kiss on your wife’s cheek
– your kids’ crowns
stepped across the threshold and out the door.

But something had to give –
that beat that your heart skipped
that dropped you to the ground

and with the hundred pound you left me
I took Spanish grinds
trying to work out the difference between the simple
and imperfect past.
And this paisley scarf I wear about town.


Keith Payne lives in Salamanca, Spain. His poems have appeared in Alimentum, Incorrigbly Plural, Mombaça, The SHOp and The Stinging Fly, among other publications. Most recently, poetry translations appeared in Forked Tongues: Galician, Catalan and Basque Women’s Poetry in Translations by Irish Writers, Ed. Manuela Palacios, (Shearsman, 2012,) and The Trinity Journal of Literary Translation. He has also translated stories by Argentine Alan Pauls for Mountain-Islandglacier, (Broken Dimanche Press, 2012,) and Catalan Victor Balcells Matas from his collection Yo mataré monstrous por ti, (I will kill monsters for you, Delirio, 2010,) one of which is forthcoming in The Stinging Fly translation special edition, Summer, 2013.