I wrote this poem while thinking about some neighbours I used to have, two middle-aged women from Croatia. One of the women had recently suffered a stroke, and the other, her sister, was afflicted with a badly twisted leg. They both smoked like chimneys, and they looked much older than they were-- ancient, really. One day, one of the women told me the story of how all the men in her home town had been taken and shot; her husband, her son, everyone. The story has haunted me ever since. I don't think this poem is done, or that I'm done honouring them and what they lived through. But it's a first attempt at processing something really difficult.
One left standing
Oh how this wind does cut me
to the bone, stripping the moisture
cruelly from my eyes, as I'm left standing
on this barren ridge, remembering
the home we used to have.
If I can squint enough
to see the hills, those cold, blue shapes
along the horizon, I’m staring into lands
we used to farm, turning the soil
by hand, that deep rich loam.
I remember the warm earth
of your eyes, and all those times that we
worked side by side; the callus of
your hands, thickened by toil, the richness
of the song you rumbled then.
Oh, when they came and tore you
from my life, and made you lie face-down
upon the ground, the sound of shots
ran wicked through my head;
I would erase that day, if I could now.
Instead, I walk this ridge
and think of you, and all the men
once stolen, that cold day; we all
are women, now, our family, but you
walk with us, shadows evermore.
March 25, 2009