What It Cost
In the pink tintype earliest hours,
we were moved out of Kiev.
Grey pelts to our necks smelling
as cold as in Wakhan on the dunged straw.
Asleep with fog in our mouths.
We ate the chunks bobbing in soup
someone thinking it excrement, and drank
bad vodka poured over black breads.
Each slept where he sat, one window
in the whole place, beyond that
muslin snow mounded where
feed piles were left.
We each thought we knew someone
still alive who would butcher dogs
This friend’s name runs in damp sweat
until it bleeds enough, cannot be read.
We were young,
the children ate flesh
pulled from pyres.
Mothers wrapped dead babies
in blankets and carried them.
As we will never know what it means
we will know what it cost.
Our icons, our cross, balalaikas
Goose down, wagons full of tarps
and crockery and deaths
throughout the tundra, deaths
as the trains steamed through snow
We never stopped at towns.
Old blue hands in snow banks
Haul your language south.
There are knives in your pillows.
The while birds fall another month.