COSSACKS AND KOSHER PICKLES

A poem about my life

kixxfamily3

I was born on a Wednesday at St. Luke’s Hospital
as the trees shed leaves of crimson and gold.
The kind nun cradled my wailing body while my father looked on proudly.
My grandfather, indentured to the Czar’s Army fled for his life across the steppes.
Grandmother, shrinking back in men’s clothing, smuggled her children to the unknown.

When I was a child, Sunday afternoons were
filled with enforced solitude, poring over old family photos and
surrounded by unopened volumes of book club selections which
sat primly in the bookcase for decor and
jars of kosher dill pickles lined up on basement shelves.

Am I that child or am I Abigail, a Salem Witch
in Arthur Miller’s Crucible?
Or the wild woman who flies into far reaches of deserted coastal British Columbia
as the small plane shudders, then soars, clearing the mountain tops
of endless lush Evergreens which break through the gray fog.

Or the child of seven, playing poker on a speeding prairie locomotive to St. Paul
with a white bearded Col. Sanders?
Or the mother so proud at her daughter’s high school graduation,
her beautiful copper curls cascading down her shoulders onto her turquoise dress.

Or the bride just moved to Vancouver, in her blue British Ford with stick shift.
She can still feel it lurching up the hill and dying while traffic stalls behind
her as her leg shakes and strains to release the clutch.

Or am I that woman you can find walking by the open ocean on a blustery March day, gazing
at her favorite Siwash Rock just off the shore, telling her grandson about the native legend of
the boy chief that was turned into that tall gray column of stone, an eternal monument to
fatherhood, by the gods of the Sagalie Tyee.