among four pines


The grey coal cars thunder slowly
over the rust-orange bridge
again.  & I pledge
allegiance to their gravity,

to the stern trumpet of the train horn
as they go.  Down the street
Grandpa’s brick Paraclete
among four pines awaits the morn

(birthday, today).  That carpenter’s
clear eye – a level’s bubble 
gazes out (chaste, equable)
into the turbulence of Zoroaster’s

Peacock Star (Yezidi refugee).
& ours.  A world of tears.
Absolute zero sears
the riverbanks.  The Mississippi

plunges under ice.  The dead of winter
sleep in Resurrection
Cemetery – Berryman,
Henry... each petrified splinter.

Massed in the clouds, a stone mizzen.
From profound Black Sea
she strains so steadily
toward me... a limpid sail, a friend.

Is she life, or death?  Her vault
is mourning.  Yet her smile
is joy – raven diagonal
coursing toward dawn (where Magi halt).


Natasha Stempel, Voronezh(?) ca. 1936

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