Poem for a Russian Grandmother in Exile by Robert Frede Kenter w/ A Painting by Moira J. Saucer

Poem for a Russian Grandmother in Exile

1. Father Sang his mother’s curse

And he said  o mother     o mother 
The earth is wrecked with pain and prayer     
one hundred thousand birds    
falling into desert sand
The earth weeping
empty baskets of bread    
tides of drowned winter wheat

I know you were stolen
I know you loved     another
I know  you were bought
and traveled north
in a parade 
of wine salesman and knife sharpeners 
marching American highways   out-of-step 

Oh mother   you moved
like everyone from   town     to town
to cities    tobacco billboards
corroded steel girders  coruscated dust
The clamoring of witness

I know you are dying                     
My  mother

Father mourned
polished cameo photos  covered  mirrors
Lay down in bowling lanes mournful
Awoke night to wailing dawn’s electric sirens 

Mother never wanted him
Father never blessed him
The industrial world    never wanted
For anything 

Grinding up  lenses in gears
of molasses
Winding the bells of the dead
spread on hard bread

2. Junk Bond Science 

Shimmering birds insurance in a cuckoo-clock
In a desk of excavated papers
copper maps nickel and lead
veins and arteries 
endless whorl of The Word
World atlas world book world photograph leaden  

Two lips in full screen cinematic kiss  silent movie
Fulsome sacrificial dream tucked  angel wings 

(& my father said
            he never loved her (that rag and junk man) 
            mother demanded  me    never loved    never
            gladly entertained a visitation     fell asleep in the routine
            of despair    f-stop shiftless and   rootless   rotten 

she arrived at my bedside a shawl of sadness
and grief
an angel peering thru  window curtains
              for a meal)

Mother of carnival  mother of knives
Mother of astronauts landed upon the Moon 
Mother borrowed life from
the marquee of the Ancient Son
Mother of the Big Tent
Mother of Apartment Buildings
Mother of the Arabesque
Mother of frustration    Mother of Anguish
Mother of Terror     Mother of disappointment 
Mother of interloper and  interruptions  
Mother of filed nails   and  ennui  
Mother of the  bedridden sick adult daughter   
Of morphine accident and   benzodiazepine drip 
Mother of purple corn bread slices with cow’s butter
reaching for the hard bread of life
reaching long necked giraffe

Mother of maelstrom in the calm of situ
Mother of Mothers  who  birthed no children
Mother acrid   Mother   who languishes 
Mother of  life over    before it begins
Mother wanderer    Diaspora Mother

Mother who did not know her own mother
Mother of drama      Mother of 
Mother who Art in Heaven 
Hallowed be Thine Name

In the mouths of one thousand policemen
In mouths of one hundred border guards

In the tens of thousand of Apartments 
Detroit to Indianapolis
San Antonio Texas to Hamilton North 
From Odessa Russia  to Montreal Quebec

Lifting a thousand bowls of song
A thousand empty holidays
A thousand desperate hopes 
A thousand finger rings with brass birds
A thousand nightmares disbursed as prayers
A thousand stories of cruel winter
A thousand entreaties of muddy water
Lost inside a world without name
No memory of crossing borders
from one world into another

A thousand modulated mobile prayers
A thousand notes of music 
A thousand tapestries
In a thousand points of light
In eviscerated  sky
A thousand gleaming windows
In the hundred thousand buildings
The hundred thousand breathless steps
of misdirection, in Mitzvah 
leaning into the work of production
Of juncture and myths   sorrow
disruption and mimicry.

Subaltern without voice
name the hummingbird 
gather up rice grains
plant echoes in  fir trees
seeding past and future
Pattern decoy in salt flats
Lift Saturnine winds 
Of the might have been

In the final cup lifted
In the final diffident sip
The evening of endings called up
Nourishment gouged out
from a metronome   conditional heart
in steady and jagged rhythmic
inhale and exile  of  ancestor 
dance 

3.  O World  Mother 

O mother     come upon a terrible sky
Wings fly from the lips of an orchestra
A world orchestral song a scored  midnight concussion  
Condensation of nightmares   violent images
in every window  notorious aftermath of massacres
riotous ennui  pogroms

Horses hooves fire smashed glass
Icy Icarus leaving everything 
heading into the sky 
What life expected
Promised a spectre of primrose and power
Enlightenment labeled forsaken 
Sing song after-worlds the after-wards 
Of Joy’s cessation

In the perfect earth  a  perfect garden
Trampled open pit mines  the burning rain forest
Pulse and machinery the  beat of efficiency 
Chloroform and bravado
Poison weaponry and asphyxiation
nerve agents gas cluster bombs

The Incendiary names of capital
The names of expansion 
The names of the State
The names of Industry
Land wealth and commodity
extraction money
In the name of racism and violence
in the name of 
planned scarcity and division 

O mother  
    at restaurant   window 
one cloudy midday in the Universe
sipping tea  and  responsive enough
to carry her arms
in gathering   towards her 
grandchild’s hopeful kiss


Robert Frede Kenter is the publisher and EIC of Ice Floe Press. A writer, editor and visual artist, poems, stories, theatre works, and songs have been published and performed widely and exhibited internationally. Receipient of grants and awards from Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council, Robert is a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee, and author of the recent hybrid Audacity of Form (2019) from Ice Floe Press.

Banner Artwork: Star of David, soft pastel, Moira J Saucer.
Soundcloud Image: Apartment, a digital image by Robert Frede Kenter

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