Back to Issue Twenty-Four.

remembering winter

BY TRIIN PAJA

I hold dark tea in your ruined city.
desire, a pitcher of wild flowers between us.

the air, weeded with night. your heart,
mosque-blue. I try to articulate, and fail,

the sadness of cows drinking from
a thawed puddle, a box of winter cabbage,

the dry, cold hour of home.
I hold the dark tea. I am trying to learn

holding without desire. here, rice boils in broth.
here, you give me lemons, a jar of tahini,

you say, bring them to your mother—
but there is a field burning with winter,

a winter of water damage, of potatoes only.
my mother’s name is the last rowan berry,

lilac wilt, the blushed cheeks of
red currant juice brewed late summer.

I hold the dark tea. I kiss your hands, your
kind hands, the marble of which hasn’t,

yet, cracked. I speak. I speak, then.
once in childhood, a man with

a horse carriage. once, many times,
I stumbled on a rotting moose. the sunset

lit its lanterns over blackened cow parsley.
my mother’s name is the sound

of the river freezing.
winter never left without bones.

 

THE JUNE DEPORTATION, 1941

BY TRIIN PAJA

it meant taking an axe to your root and you forgot
you were a ragged, giving apple tree.

you forgot there was a blackberry-braided fence,
the warm milk of a child’s smile.

your starched, white headscarf grew to brown earth.
they took you to east, east, and your husband’s name

slipped from an animal wagon, became quartz
in a nameless riverbed. death came in women

cutting wood in snow light, in mothers
shuffling barefoot over the frost’s shining iris,

whose children became magpies,
became silences cradled in silk sheets.

you could say, I could leave, but the forest sparkled
with bones. days wrote themselves into a bone diary.

a bone knows the night of your body,
then the night of soil. each day of watery bread,

of silvery wind through a thin, old sweater,
the trees falling, falling, the sky burning

in a pale flame. the sky, the only door.
when the sun halved its apples, birds still

froze into lakes. you ate their ghosts.
each day someone called the earth good,

and you repeated it, having forgotten
your language.

 

Paja 24

Triin Paja is an Estonian, living in a small village in rural Estonia. Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Prairie Schooner, Portland Review, and the Missing Slate, among others. She also writes and publishes poetry in Estonian.

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