As we began to land in Amsterdam,
the pilot put on “Queen Jane Approximately,”
and for twenty years I’ve wondered why
that song, why Amsterdam, why I loved
that girl who asked me why I wore those jeans,
that sinister expression.
The world has not collapsed, she said,
as we dodged the bikers on Haarlemmerstraat
and bought big, fat strawberries
grown speedily in glass in Roosendaal.
She was swift in sex, came first as I tried,
thinking always, Is this it?
Is this what it means to be in love?—
the ham and cheese and bread were bad,
and in the afternoon we drank Heineken
among blonde, tattooed boys, watching
the line snake past the Van Gogh Museum.
I’d imagined tulips in window boxes,
door frames woven with ivy. Foreplay,
a Dutch maid waiting in the hall. She got sick
inside the Anne Frank House
and told me we were mistaken.
I wandered the cemetery called Zorgvlied
and studied the dates. They were people
who suffered and lied, stole fruit,
and believed in the world, its justice and songs,
that cobwebs, perhaps, were beautiful.
I slept beside Anna Van Dijk that night
and wondered how she looked as a child,
curled at some piano in a faraway city,
sneaking chocolates from a tin, sleepy
but alive. I put my cheek to the stone
that bore her consonants and wondered
if I’d always be foreign to the world.