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ISSUE:  Winter 1991
Vladimir Ussachevsky, 1911—1990

The night you died
you rushed into the apartment
where I was sorting your papers,
weary as the girl
who has until sunrise
to spin straw into gold.
In a disreputable black raincoat,
you were your old-world
courtly self,
despite the haste, the fuss
of leaving.

From deep in your pockets
you drew out coins, ticket stubs,
a small black-and-white photograph
of the Orthodox church in Manchuria
where you first learned liturgy, the ebb and flow
of choirs. More than sixty
years have passed: your first friends
on earth, dogs and birds
and tumbleweeds from the fields around Hailar,
run silent as shadows through Calvary Hospice
in the Bronx. Time and space
unravel, dark threads at your hem.

Now my sister’s baby wakes
in Honolulu, weaving his hands in air.
He hears the birds
and answers them,
calling to the light.


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