by Celia Gilbert
(For K. F. 1886-1960)
In the blaze of sun—Odessa. I climb
the wide-lipped granite steps
where Eisenstein’s camera panned
the baby carriage tumbling, the panicked crowd.
It wasn’t the revolution, Grandmother,
but the pogroms that packed you into steerage.
Our cruise ship docks only a few hours.
If I can ever hope to know you
whose rare visits confused my childhood—
your broken English, kinky gray hair,
faded house dresses,
swollen feet in worn bedroom slippers.
It is here where I will find you in summer white,
a broad blue sash matching your blue eyes.
Arms linked, we’ll stroll under the plane trees
where vendors sell matryushka dolls, gold and red,
a little world of women, like us, Grandmother,
with our finitude of eggs.
Now that we speak the language of youth
we will be dearest friends, laughing
at the stories we contrive of a world
we think we understand. Your dreams
shot through with expectation resemble mine.
Black curls brushing my shoulder, you’ll whisper
secrets I’ve needed to learn. Father’s mother,
my feet touch the very stones you walked.
I conjure you to appear, speak!
I have come so far, not for a sight of Babel
or the exiled Pushkin—for you—
your face like a half-opened rose.
Copyright © 2011 by Celia Gilbert.