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.
Immediate comfort.

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.
Pay attention.

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.