Her mother was a farmer’s wife
who struggled up and down hillocks
on frozen Estonia grassland
grazing a herd of Holstein cows,
a babushka wrapped around her head.
Crusty hands no longer held her,
for she was just one more bleating goat
or calf demanding to be fed.
Her body hungered to be touched,
she no longer had any wish to eat.
Breathing in, she held back molten tears.
Striving for perfection,
she built a dam of cobblestones,
hiding pangs of hunger
in a fetishistic crypt.
No one can ever know her.
She kept the curious at bay,
hiding whispered secrets
father warned her not to say,
when he cuddled her in bed,
demanding she keep silent.
Father lived his days in dread,
with so much to conceal,
hiding gold coins, a silver samovar
and a copper-bottom chulent pot,
he buried when drunken Cossacks came along.
Emaciated and bereft,
her stony eyes flitted back and forth,
betraying a sunken soul.
She deftly sidestepped all who tried to nurture
the remains of her withered innards
and trickle of evaporating blood.
The shriveled belly no longer howls,
a shadowy slight-of-hand blinding all
to the masquerade of how she blunts the spark of Eros
cascading from hands that long to hold her.
Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D. is an 86 year-old psychologist. He is also a Korean War veteran who has published many poems in periodicals such as the Wisconsin Review, Descant, Toronto Quarterly Review, Chariton Review, Vox Poetica, Red Wheelbarrow, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and the New York Times.
Photo by: Ana Prundaru