Francis Fernandes

Invigilator’s Journey 

In pairs they come in and sit down
before me. Scribble furiously, making
the most of their twenty minutes
before the examiners in the next room
skew their brains, weigh all they know 
about this new foreign language. 
It’s my job to sit straight and make sure
they don’t talk – not yet – just prepare 
what they will say, quietly wielding
pen on paper, like marksmen and
markswomen buffing their shotguns. 

But then – time isn’t even up –
we can’t help it: the silence is broken,
like a perfect glass dome caving in, 
and here we are, sweeping away 
tiny glittering bits with our illicit 
chatter. The smiling Brazilian claims
he can improvise anyway; the Latvian 
mother of two isn’t worried, she’s been
through so much already; and me, 
rule-breaking native asking all the odd
questions. The world is so big. Time 
too short. We are, all of us, candidates 
for the ultimate task, and now, here, we  
bask in our folly, like thieves in the night, 
footloose pickpockets skipping to the beat 
of Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine.

Then the gong sounds. Then all the other
gongs. Suddenly, the day is over. I go
back to my simple life. Navigating 
through a sea of strangers. Live music 
comes wafting through a barroom door. 
In a park, I watch the first moon of the year
rise over this throbbing world, wondering 
where the years have gone. Later, when 
I turn off the bedside lamp, a soft, bluish 
light spills through the window 
and drenches the sheets. The guitar
stands in the corner, almost forgotten.
And me: scrunched up in the warmest 
part of the bed, remembering how 
your breath sweetly tinkled, 
like the sound of snow on pines. 

Francis Fernandes grew up in the US and Canada. He studied in Montréal and has a degree in Mathematics. Since spring 2020, his writing has appeared in over twenty literary journals, including Modern Poetry Quarterly Review, Defenestration Magazine, Saint Katherine Review, Amethyst Review, Third Wednesday. He lives in Frankfurt, Germany, where he writes and teaches.