Gretchen Miexner


Black wild hair stretched across
Pale, knobby shoulders, a mark
Of her latent Eastern ancestry.
She deserted the land, the stores,
The smells. She left an imprint,
Now consumed by wars and waste.

The bags were tight and small
Leaving no room for teddy bears
Or homemade woolen dresses.
Her mother carefully packed
Totems of their religion
Stuck between pots and pans,
So they would not move freely
Or plan an escape attempt.

She takes the relics out, sometimes
To study like a crystal ball.
Staring in the glow to determine
If future obscures origin.

She will stay forever, even if
It means forgetting songs and
Mistaking Belarus for a piece,
A synecdoche of Russia.

Sarcasm is a learned trait.
She judges the women in bars,
Grinning servers and waiters,
Not knowing why she hates them.
Why their long milky hair and
Bawdy eyes are so repugnant
To a guarded Jewish mind.

She still speaks in native tongue
Though her sister can't understand.
She gestures with frantic hands,
Like Americans, but they still
Call her affectionate nicknames,
And ask if she ever met a Romanov
she swallows hard, before answering.

One day she might return
Crawl across a man-made
Bering Strait bridge.
It will hold, it will hold
To let her pass, carrying
All things acquired in those
Dewey, half-finished states.
Bits of string and glasses,
A book stagnant in translation.

They may not recognize her,
Despite familiar phrases,
Will place her with the refugees.
Her mouth moves and they hear heresy,
An endorsement of Western change.
Maybe they will forgive,
Let her wander an empty house,
Counting windows and escape routes.
She might ask where ancestors lay,
If only she could remember roads and
How to pronounce the name of the town.

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