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— VĂ­ctor Rodríguez Núñez

Georgi Gospodinov, from A Balkan Exchange


(a photograph by Russel Sorgi, 1942)

This is a photo from the Forties, New York — the number of the street
escapes me. In the foreground
there's a hotel cafe, three round tables
outside on the sidewalk, and at the fourth
the only two customers, cups in front of them,
idly smoking.
It's deadly quiet
and if at this moment the two look up
they will see
(for us this is the centre of the photo),
between the ninth and the eighth floor,
like a fly, like a smudge on the print,
a woman

The photographer, so the story goes,
was an intern on the Buffalo Courier Express.
He just happened to be there taking a photo
of a lazy September, an empty New York street,
meaning to call it 'Two in the Afternoon' or 'Boredom'.
But things change,
the title has to go —
the woman gets in shot, a starring role
which means nothing to her.
In the photo she is still alive
between the ninth and the eighth floor —
a cry in the throat, fear in the body —
her dress is intact, and that
shocks us all the more.
The coffee stains on the sidewalk
are still in the cups.