Monthly Archives: March 2016


She sat in the train compartment and leaned her head up against the window, her right temple bouncing against the glass as the train lulled and swayed over the landscape outside. With each second that passed and each tree that flew by her vision, Zoya grew more aware that she would never see her home again.

She forced herself to keep her eyes dry and hide the truth, that she was now an exile from the only place she had ever known; but her vacant eyes — dry as they were — betrayed her. She stared at everything but saw nothing, only the images of her love back at home, standing in the doorway of their little apartment as if everything was the same, standing there angelically in the rubble of a destroyed dream.

Everywhere Zoya went, Mashka followed. In the street, in the mirror, on the front step, Mashka was there, or at least the memory of Mashka was. Zoya knew it wasn’t real; she knew the Maria she was seeing in her mind was not the Maria of flesh and blood. She knew Maria was long gone now, her Mashka, the girl with the big blue eyes, who couldn’t bear to leave her family, who couldn’t bear to forsake her homeland, even if it meant becoming another number in the body count or being persecuted for loving the wrong person.

Zoya knew this. She told Mashka to flee with her, to run away — France, Belgium, Italy, anywhere — to escape the impending devastation that the Red Army was sure to inflict, the danger of being a woman in love with another woman. That was a forbidden love back home, and Zoya wasn’t even sure where she was going — wherever that was — would accept her love either. But it did not matter now. Here Zoya was on the train, barreling away on this locomotive far away from her life before. Her eyes focused and unfocused as she rolled by. The farther west she traveled the redder the trees seemed to be in this late autumn weather, as though the Bolsheviks were following her the whole time, their colors poisoning the safety she felt on this train traveling away from the toxic epicenter. But home had become grayer and bleaker to her the longer she was there, growing more war-torn in the days before her departure; it was now a dead country to her, as dead as Mashka would soon be.

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The Zoo

Inside the fence, they sit together and stare;
they commune in the dirt with nary a care
but the hair on their heads and the plants on the ground,
which they pull up, examine and toss around.
With camaraderie palpable, there’s cheer in the air,
the chatter of simians indulged in a shared
experience together, eternally bound
in the world of their primate playground —
observes the humble zoologist.

Outside the fence, they gape and they glare
at the animals inside, neglecting to compare
their own primitive selves to the beings aground
while convincing themselves they do not confound
the language of one mind to the language of theirs —
observes the humble anthropologist.

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I wake up in a war zone
in which cannonballs fly
outside my bedroom;
the rumble and groan of round shots
echo in and out of my brain.
I listen for a moment and roll over,
hardly disturbed by
the thunderous noise. All I want
to do is to surrender to slumber and
go back to sleep.

But the barrage continues
from all sides, ammunition flying
outside me as I rise
reluctantly. I listen
expressionless as I weave my way
through the bullets lying in piles
on the floor, remnants
of previous battles
to which I was similarly resigned.

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