Grelle

The Siege Ends, and Prospekts Begin Again

Emily Grelle

            for Tanya Savicheva

 

You are still as felled birch,
reduced to a frame, your head and chest
gleam white and black in a photo that leaves
out the buds of your fingers and legs.
In this museum of 900 nights
we are starved for the right words
to translate history posted on walls
in syllables we cannot pronounce.
Our mouths were never as empty as yours
and cannot hold your burgeoning tongue,
so full of snow, and scorn, and rising wings.
Here they will never leave you:
your mother, still, beside you,
your paper-thin sisters, uncles, and brother,
the venerable icon of “grandmother.”

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How your fresh-sown body must have sunk,
at the first sight of your own dead
grown into earth,
your stomach turned
to shrieking ghost. Flesh-filled
mountains buried every Prospekt—
swollen, suddenly in so flat a land,
with blue-peaked noses, slit-eyed ravines,
rock faces parted as if to breathe.
Digging the trenches, they must have opened
like mouths under instrument;
what food was there, in their clod-teeth,
their lockjaws?
Did you see yourself in the white-eyed stare
of lidless corpses, imagine what shape
your mouth would fix for itself?
Would you be sure
to shut your own eyes?
Did you step over
or around each freshly fallen body—
frigid as rats in the floorboards?

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How could your heart have kept pulling,
like sifting water for ice,
as your blood died in blue strokes
of pencil lines left in your diary—
a record of names and grave dates
deserving of headstones—first letters on tabs
in your book of empty addresses:
Everyone died
Only Tanya is left
.”¹

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Look how you’ve been
immortalized! In these dark rooms
you are no longer hungry, but we are
hungry for you, pupils feasting
on your picture, your words
we try to understand. The faces
you loved are with you, somebody knew
to save them. It is so late
outside, people imagine
what they will eat,
put bread on the table,
laying down their knives.
I look to the sky
for you. Look how
the little stars
and planets shine!
_________________

¹‘Умерли все’
‘Осталась одна Таня.’

EMILY GRELLE holds an M.A. in Russian studies from Stanford University, and a B.A. in English from Chico State. Her work is forthcoming or appeared recently in Spoon River Poetry Review, Thrice Fiction, Storyscape Journal, Zaum, and Keep This Bag Away From Children. Her top travel destination in the U.S. is New Orleans, and her favorite place to be is St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

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