Ivory watch face,
hands stopped over the big “R” and “A”
of ROSSIA, a silver puzzle
of wrist band my fingers know,
prayer beads he doesn’t want me to touch.
Before I can think, I touch.
A wooden Koh-i-Noor pencil,
warn-down from endless circles
in an engineer’s compass.
A human life.
A half-empty box of Belomor, filter-less.
No half measures.
Shiny war medals worn once a year.
Bravery is quiet.
A brown-leather book, weighted with dreams,
coins and papers with foreign faces.
Don’t collect your dreams.
A box of found things
waiting to give birth to new things.
If I knew how.
Hands, solid and soft
like newly packed dirt
‘round a fresh planting.
No father, but him; no bond but love.
Hearth fire of his voice
recites Pushkin’s Onegin,
fingers adorned with herring innards.
Eyes study me,
from under the snow-dusted eyebrows;
A smile sleeps in the bullet-marked lips.
Cherry blossoms in the arboretum,
pink angels landing on his smooth head.
Tears of guilt I mistake for sadness
in grandma’s eyes.
He lies with an enemy he couldn’t beat.
No medals for living.
Telephone requiem in morning’s cathedral.
“He left, he passed, he’s not.”
I remember, not saying good-bye —
a quiet inheritance.