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My Mother

In their log house in the forests
west of Lvov, my grandmother
told my mother tales in the winter
to pry her thoughts from the sound
of trees splitting with the cold,
exploding with a crack like that
of her father's double-barrelled shotgun

A cat, she would say, can't be trusted
it comes in the short spring night
and sleeps on the priest's chest
watching his adam's apple
as if it were some mouse hidden
under a blanket of stubbled skin,
and then striking its sudden claws
through his skin into cartilage

And what of the wolves, she'd say,
the nine that in the winter's
gray stone dawn would smash
their bones against the door,
hammering like hungry seals
until the door splinters and the baby
is got at—even from the cradle
even from its precious sleep

An listen, Tekia, my mother's mother
would whisper then, there are men
as bad as wolves who no door
—no matter how solid the oak—
will keep out,

So trust in Jesus
in the world of clouds far beyond
the frozen forests of this frozen world

Do this always, and fear the greedy hens.

 

©1999 John Guzlowski

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