KR OnlinePoetry

Of Water; Yanka Kupala Street; Lutheran Square

Of Water

Let’s not pretend where I went
I went by accident: I looked, pulled
a pale stone from my mouth
and cast it. I watched the crows
swarm orange dusk, held
time’s silty kite string.


Yanka Kupala Street

Family of metalsmiths who roofed
                        this new city: I looked for our name
            in the cemetery. Found great-grandmother in lime

next to a wasp nest. Envelope full of matte faces
                        and a weathered map: I laid stones
            all over. Laid them in doubles

for the years none were laid. In the cemetery: found
                        great-grandmother in lime next to
            a wasp nest. Slaughter marker across from McDonald’s.

DoubleTree near the mass grave. Placed stones
                        in doubles for the years
            none were laid. At the river’s edge, a flock of geese

cleaned their summer-plumped bodies. Slaughter marker
                        across from McDonald’s and DoubleTree
            near the mass grave. Green tufting

out of the bonerock, every city grown from
                        the dead. At the river’s edge, a flock
            of geese cleaned their summer-plumped bodies.

All that ocean and back to the same cutting waters.
                        Green tufting out of the bonerock, air filled
            with the dead. Sunlight traces the fish-scaled roof

of the circus. The family circus, as we claimed. All that ocean
                        and back to the same cutting waters. Family
            of metalsmiths who roofed this new city: I looked for our name.

Author’s Note: The Belarusian State Circus was completed in 1958. A stone structure in the center of Minsk, the foreman for the original tin roof was my grandfather’s uncle. The circus stands at the corner of Yanka Kupala Street and Independence Avenue. If you are ever in Minsk, my cousin will take you and show you.


Lutheran Square

Minsk, Belarus

A little girl with my name throws grass
into the hollow. From the lapis bench,
I watch her. Only a plaque now
for the Lutheran church, German
cemetery. The aura is still bad, many
husbands died early.
After the war,
the locals couldn’t stand it: mourners visiting
with hard double consonants. My mother
one of the neighbor kids, climbing
into crypts, hiding behind coffins.

Author’s Note: During a 2016 expansion of Karl Liebknecht Street in Minsk, workers unearthed bones from the city’s former Lutheran Cemetery. It was the first time the old cemetery had been disturbed since the headstones were removed in the 1970s. The italicized phrase in this poem comes from an article by Irina Bordovskaya in Komsomolskaya Pravda, a news outlet whose Belarusian subsidiary was blocked online on September 29, 2021 by the authoritarian regime of Aleksandr Lukashenko. The print edition was banned in 2020.