Category Archives: 2021

MINADORA MACHERET.June 2021


MINADORA MACHERET

Photo by Jeff Sirkin


 

SHE CALLED THEM ALL A BANDIT GOD, OR HOW
MY GRANDMOTHER SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST

I.

When your country is at war

look for the way people treat children,

then you’ll know who to follow.

But when the children are dying

God is a bandit. Masked

as a smiling man, asking

where your sister lives

as the synagogue burns

to keep your house warm.

II.

Leave the birds at the mine entrance,

they are not big enough, wing-tip-to-wing-tip

they will make a cocoon, a cage of feathers

their heartbeats electrical-steel humming

as you enter the Donetsk Coal Basin

looking for energy, a stone-currency,

that will let you ride commercial trains

into manageable horror. But, a Bandit-God watches,

his smirk a collapsing cavern

immobilizing your legs before the Black Cars pick you up.

The birds are still fluttering, a frenzy

before an explosion. Waiting to deliver

your bird-song-survival.

III.

The land will always show you the way out.

It waited for your return at birth,

your bones: hollowed out rocks

that remember river paths & the quickest way to drown.

But it never prepared you for a sea of bodies

a constant churning

you are asked to forget,

because a Bandit-God is a ghost

with a body sewn on.

IV.

Always leave five plates out,

when all you do is cook for yourself.

The table is always ready to give—

you, a skeleton of your mother’s foods,

leave out the kasha, the totality of divinity,

each kernel an arrow

a Bandit-God follows into fields

where honeybees spooked as scarecrows

line the wheat.

V.

You can always trust a woman.

She will shape shift into a shadow

like an eclipsed-sun.

She is mute. The tongueless can’t give wisdom—

but she gives you grapes to restore your lungs

& holds you to her chest

as you blend into the fabric of her clothing,

her heart, where a Bandit-God can’t see

& the children are the vineyard-vines

holding you upright as the sun blazes on.

 

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LIE STILL

There was a time when Ukraine groaned so deep and guttural. Her scream stuck silent beneath lurching country-lines; she choked on plumes of smoky-sun & wept with each child buried alive. They corroded the lining of her throat. A body forged by millennia of kasha farms. A body meant to contain and save the people who took & took & took.

 

I wanted to feel the grooves of rocks that whispered mined secrets. Of memories for those lost in a mother’s grasp. Confined, she struggled; she held her hands together in a prayer lost to gunfire. There would be no feeling loud enough to save her children—

 

Her body continued to shake and crumble, and still she prayed.

 

 

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TISHINA, OR HOW SOFTLY MEMORY FALLS

For Sarah Tiplitskaya

 

I can only remind you of moments

of house or that’s mine.

She hid you among her jutting ribs

where neighbors shared bread

never fearing one or the other.

But strife and war aren’t interested in peace.

Your mother called them the Bandit God.

Round up the family into the dirt.

Your mother begged the Bandit-God

not to push the baby’s body into

a sea of trembling and wheezing.

But the Bandit-God didn’t listen—

made a spectacle for those who questioned

your fall into the pit of human bodies,

as the ground convulsed for seven days.

 

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FIRST SESSION WITH THE PSYCHOLOGIST: THE GRANDCHILD TRIES TO REMEMBER AN INHERITANCE OF PAIN

The psychologist asks the grandchild to twist their body, turn each muscle loose with ghost-stories.

 

See how the tongue trembles? It tries to swallow a hard vowel before it remembers words like Nikopol manganese. That filled the blast furnaces & mines, a magnet suturing steel, for resistance against cattle wagons full of crows & crowded limbs. In this town, once of 22,000, each mine & school & bakery full of bruised walls or imprints, of one hand ripped from another as neighbors sold cousins & sisters & best friends.

 

Still the grandchild tries to mimic

 

the stern caterpillar brows of Dyedushka, who wept into the metallurgical mines. Each spark & removal of oxygen forged rifle & barrel & piping to the gas chamber.

 

& the psychologist says, remember the body after a strike— the way it curls into itself.

 

Muscles shocked. The mind muted. But when the grandchild touches steel

 

The metal rings electric through her bones & her mouth full of blood burns to the crack of steel-capped boots disfiguring her Babushka’s cheek-bone.

 

 

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BABA YAGA (UKRAINE, 1939)

She was none other than the terrible witch who chased little children by riding through the air
in her giant mortar. And once caught, she ate them with her iron teeth.

 

My chicken-legged hut limps

as I follow cattle-wagons

on railroads of bone-shatter,

& metallic smoke.

Each night, I listen

for the children.

Hoping they find a way

back to me.

My oven meant for eating

meant for death,

& there it sits:

empty, but for flecks of teeth.

The embers under it

a purplish bruise spreading,

my servants turn ashes—

turn over child’s laughter,

their fear, the moment

before my mouth ajar.

Each day I watch

trains of children

evaporate.

I pray to the godless

let the children go.

Frost scrapes my windows

like small hands

& mostly, ghost-like,

those children’s faces haunt me.

Tiny eyes like fireflies

on decaying compartment doors,

pray for heat & food.

I didn’t know I have a heart,

could feel the muscle twitch

& ache with every passing day.

I watch how each soldier crosses himself

as I enter their camp,

unravel my body with one snarl,

how the forest surges

how the men run,

how it isn’t enough.

 

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MINADORA MACHERET


Minadora Macheret
is a Ph.D. Candidate in Poetry at the University of North Texas. She received the James Merrill Poetry Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Rogue Agent, Connotation Press, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbook, Love Me, Anyway, (Porkbelly Press, 2018). She likes to travel across the country with her beagle, Aki.

 

To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.

 

 

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June 2021.MINADORA MACHERET