The hope a mooncalf follows
is sacrifice for slaughter,
and yet the wings of swallows
still skip across the water. 

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Visiting my Dead Grandmother’s Cottage

Lithuania, 1966

Visiting her cottage I remember ripe ears of corn,
drawers full of bent knives, mouldy crusts of pumpernickel bread,
high shelves of hoary berry jams, curtains threadbare and torn,
and an axe brighter than the cracks in the wall near a bed
bereft of her broken body for three months and one week.
Through a veranda window I recall a thistled yard,
and still hear portents issuing from a fat raven’s beak.
A bucket of stagnant water mirrors the cloudy lard
she must have fried eggs and coffee grinds in every morning.
And by a potato patch I see a wild war-like pig,
with its head full of demons, palavering and snorting.
And I shout something and ineptly cast a birch’s twig
while my father speaks to an old peasant in a strange tongue
about pagan deities carved on trees when he was young.

first published in Cedar Hill Review, Summer 1998

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© by Leo Yankevich