Go back to the cottage in Kiev
with its peasant stove and earthen
of chickens, climbing
rose bushes, apple trees, and me
learning to write my name. “A”
is such an elegant letter. When
I tell you about my life, 1928
is still possible.
There is no getting around the Cheka.
They wore black boots.
The buttons on their jackets scattered
They carried rifles, shouted
in Russian. I was old enough
to know what they wanted, to refuse.
When this happened, they
created the Famine.
But you haven’t heard
of the Famine? What goes missing
from textbooks: that the Soviets robbed us
of our grain, boarded up
our train stations. The Cheka
killed my father, my brother
joined the collective, even this
wasn’t enough. We stole rotten
potatoes, put them in a pot,
pumped water until the starch rose
to the surface. We lived on
the foam, just that.
You could, too.
I wasn’t strong. I did not hope.
I remember my brother
coming home from the fields
with something in his hands—a dead
sparrow for me, a little
piece of luck.