There are poets with history and poets without history, Tsvetsaeva claimed living through the ruin of Russia. Karina says disavow every time I see her. We, the daughters between countries, wear our mean mothers like scarves around our necks. Every visit, mine recounts all the wrongs done against her ring sent for polishing returned with a lesser diamond, Years of never rest and, she looks at me, of nothing to be proud of. I am covered in welts and empty pockets so large sobs escape me in the backroom of my Landlord's fabric shop. He moves to wipe my tears as if I’m his daughter or I’m no one’s daughter. It’s true, I let him take my hand, I am a girl who needs something. I slow cook bone grief, use a weak voice. My mother calls me the girl with holes in her hands, every time I lose something. All Russian daughters were snowflakes once, and in their hair a ribbon long as their body knotted and knotted and knotted into a large translucent bow. It happens, teachers said, that a child between countries will refuse to speak. A girl with a hole in her throat, every day I opened the translation book. Silent, I took my shoes off when I came home, I put my house clothes on. We had no songs, few rituals. On Yom Kippur, we lit a candle for the dead and no one knew a prayer. We kept the candle lit, that’s all. The wave always returns, and always returns a different wave. I was small. I built a self outside my self because a child needs shelter. Not even you knew I was strange, I ate the food my family ate, I answered to my name.
Vasya, in Bed
If you fall asleep now, all the mice will ﬁnd your bed.
Drawn to the warm life in you, they’ll spend the night
power grooming your small patches of fur nibbling
on your overgrown toenails. You don’t want that.
It’s too close. Stay awake, Vasya.
No one’s coming. Breeze is cold.
Pull the covers over your ears. Not a woman.
Just the shape of a woman.
Weight presses down on your duvet-lump body push
the word go from your ghost-wrapped throat. She’ll go.
Not all ghosts mean trouble —you could let her stay.
(To aid sleep, recite the Cyrillic alphabet.)
At the foot of your bed something.
Close your window, keep water by.
That’s a frog’s croak. That’s your body.
That’s a night bird.