Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

A Delicate Balance

My vanished cities rise
in rings of gas, Manhattan spiked
like an EKG, islands extending slim, accusatory fingers
into Jamaica Bay. Along the parkway,
the three-story houses of Queens unfold,
front yards iridescent with car parts
and blue-streamered tricycles,
everything delicately balanced
on the scales of heaven, the weight of a feather
against the city’s heart, its music cold
as late Beethoven, each bar a room
where the dead continue their lives
with the blind persistence of the living—my father,
his heart intact in the museum
of his chest, and my grandmother, still a girl
in Kiev, running with her sisters
down the wide, tree-lined streets
named for Soviet heroes, long brown braid
slapping her back. Green. Everything green
as a childhood summer, the canal where the swans
in a kind of Machiavellian daring
stopped alongside the dock to eat stale bread
from my hand. Summer with its Greek
chorus of crickets, the gods’ way of saying
You are one of us. I could almost feel the pumpkins
swelling, extending their runners over the low fence.
This is how my neighbor’s strawberries
came into our yard, with the patience
of an expectant mother, and how we enjoyed them,
dipping the ends in sugar and slipping them whole
into our mouths, the first bite red-blonde
as the sun that appeared in every window
of Kiev; the room where, at seventeen,
my grandmother held the brocaded
wedding gown to her body, heavy and formal
as the music within.  end  

return to top