Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Tuesday poem #127 : Kayla Czaga : Gulag

On Anzersky Island, we share
a sheetless yellow bunk. 
You mumble and unhook

your skirt.  Men are yelling.
I hold your hand.  Then we
are sisters.  Slowly our shoulders

bend; slowly they ascend
skin.  Men polish belt buckles
in your hair.  I ask

the Island’s strange insects
to blanket you.  With their red
wings, cover you—then we

are laughing—your body
a sacred place on which
they bury their dead.

            tell me about the war.
a bird’s nest     woven inside a man’s
ribcage                         your mother?
yes, out of her sadness I built
many closets.

The son who couldn’t aim a gun
races the electric fence. 
We carry the island to the other
side of the island.  Scots Pine wind-whittled
into the horizon’s red toothpicks.  The handles
of our wheelbarrows have erased
our hands.  Without skin, you could wash
yourself off completely; or forget
yourself, ankles first, in the bogs.  The mud
eats almost anything—including the stars—
night is now so much darker.
            what do you carry?    
the wind in a shoebox. 

            what else?
but it is inside me.

We could only
be this close
in love or mass-graves,

your body
like two hundred
grams of good bread, your body

tucked in
my tin locket.  My skin
undone, you are under it, you are
mixed with it,
while your hair grows
daisies.  The things people do

to each other
in the dark—I could eat
your pretty little heart. 

The heart is a bird’s nest.
It troubles the orchardist. 

Once, you loved music. Once, I sold flowers.
You conducted your orchestra to play
Shostakovitch’s eighth until the whole

string section wept, why was it banned?  The police
burnt your organ; they broke your left hand.

You aim a snowball at me, but miss.
Then we are laughing.  Then it is so cold
we feel only our laughter.  I say, how tiny

the petal tips were
where they connected to the centres—

they seem an almost implausible
construction. It is difficult to believe
they’re dead:  seconds after you close

your eyes, their colours are still
fading into your eyelids.

Kayla Czaga is the author of For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions, 2014), which was recently nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. She lives in Vancouver.

the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan


Unknown said...

How you do dat? I like.


Jan Conn said...

Simultaneously delightful and somber. Gorgeous language. Brava!