Tuesday, January 29, 2008



It's nearly the end of January and we've got a ton of snow. The picture above is looking out our kitchen window. "Only eleven months until Christmas," Ted announced cheerily the other day. (Shoot me now!)

Here's a picture of me taken a few hours ago by my friend, Judie Gray, when we were out for dinner and a movie with friends. The movie, a 2006 French film Mon Meilleur Ami, was excellent. Very funny, very poignant, and the plot very predictable, but the characters were so engaging it didn't matter.

As it says in the blog blurb above, this is where I sometimes post poems. Here's one I wrote at Patrick Lane's Glenairely retreat last year. It's in the chapbook Starting With Bread, published by the elegant Leaf Press.

for Vi Plotnikoff

We follow the hearse up the hill to the English Cemetery.
Snow falls softly, feathers the ground.

Across the river in Ootischenia
the other cemetery, Blagodatnoe,
overlooks the Columbia River.
Slate or marble markers lie amid the dry grasses
abandoned by all but the dead now,
surrounded by a wire fence.

Vi’s in a plain pine box, in a pale blue dress,
her hands folded, her eyes shut.
Fastened securely at her neck as if the sharp November wind might tug it off,
a kerchief—a platok, she’d say—covers her head with pink flowers.


Off to the north in New Denver, another wire fence,
a chain link fence
kept children in and parents out.

There’s always singing at Doukhobor funerals. Today, at the graveside,
a cappella voices rise to the sky, clouds part,
the sun shines a welcome to my friend.

In the fifties, the RCMP came before dawn and rousted from their beds the children
of Sons of Freedom, children whose parents didn’t hide them in cupboards or root cellars,
under floor boards or out in the woods, wherever they could get to in time.

On her casket, pink roses from her family who love her.
A deer, a young buck, emerges from the woods,
watches while she is lowered into the ground.

The government said parents were wrong to keep the kids out of school
so it punished the kids as well as the parents.

Vi told stories of Doukhobor life, of aunts and young soldiers,
of girls and their weddings,
and stories as distant from her life as mine,
one of dead villages, dead with no children,
gone with their youth, gone with their laughter
as if the Pied Piper had lured them away.

Two hours at a time, twenty-four times a year, parents could visit their children.
In winter they touched fingers through the chain-link fence, afraid to kiss,
for the fence was cold and their lips might stick.

After she’s in the ground and the deer has returned to the forest
we drive back to Brilliant, to long tables laden with tea and sturdy bread,
bowls for the funeral borscht and lapsha, served by the ladies.

In the fifties, children like me, same age as the kids in New Denver,
didn’t know how to say platok, or Blagodatnoe,
didn’t know the Doukhobor kids could speak Russian. They kept that secret.

Last time I saw her, propped against pillows in her hospital bed,
Spasiba I said. Spasiba for helping us English begin to understand.
Thank you for the stories. Spasiba. Thank you for telling.


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