This poem was published in Alaska Women Speak‘s winter issue 2015. The theme was “talking over coffee or tea.”
The samovar placed on the kitchen table
is a poor replica of babushka’s samovar,
the silver one with the tiny teapot at the top
that held the strongest tea,
the tea she cautioned your tiny hand
not to touch,
not to hold.
Just watch, my devochka,
she would say,
as she poured the concentrated tea
into tiny china cups:
for you a little; for her a lot.
She would exhale the steam off her cup
like she was blowing off a potion,
like a spell casting you both back
to the old country,
the Good Russia of the tsars,
not the bad Russia where Lenin lived,
in the stories she would tell.
She takes you to the Samara of her youth,
when the tsar still lived
and the grand duchesses were the most
beautiful girls in the world,
as her tea cakes disappear
and your tea runs cold.
Today, your middle-aged hands fill
the teapot of your own samovar, far
less beautiful than babushka’s and made
of brass from new Russia.
You hope she doesn’t mind the cheap
imposter as you set two ceramic cups out,
and babushka’s spirit takes you to the
banks of the Volga just one more time.
OK, so this is late. It is barely Thursday Alaska time, but hey, it is still Thursday!
This one was published in Peeking Cat Poetry in October 2015 (8th issue). Yes, it is about my little girl. No, really I am not turning her into a Russophile, but really, would it be a bad thing if I did? Ha ha. Just like mama! 🙂
My ten month baby girl says “da”
like a good Russian comrade.
Her hands flap in the air, beat her chest
with the conviction of Lenin presenting
his April Theses in Petrograd in 1917.
I tell my husband “da” counts as a word,
as it means “yes” in Russian.
He shakes his head: in English
it is short for “dada” or “daddy.”
Yet, he knows his Russophile wife better:
You’ve been speaking Russian to her, he insists.
I’ve been too tired to speak to her in anything
other than English, I tell him.
But that is not true:
I have read her tales of babushki and koshki—
Grandmothers and cats—
because it interests me.
Makes reading to a seemingly disinterested
audience easier, more productive.
Yet, I wonder, as she sits in my lap,
her corn silk hair thick like mine,
her lips open wide,
her hands clap patty-cake,
as I reach for the bottle.
Bringing it closer to her,
I pause before I can say khochesh and
use English instead:
want your bottle?
She smiles with her two front teeth,