Elina Petrova has contributed a quartet of autumnal poems to North Dakota Quarterly and they’re all queued up to appear in issue 86.3/4. We’re presenting the first of the four here and maybe we’ll post another one in the coming weeks. As this first poem suggests, they very good and in them autumn isn’t a time as much as a mood and light which create moments.
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Sorry, I stole a pencil from the Shepherd School
to write this poem. Blessed are the bipolar
for they know which phase they face.
I shed silent tears and smile as I walk
Rice University trails. See, there is clover,
several drops of wild strawberries
for those who bow to grass. Enframed
by boxwood shrubs is the bench on which
a few springs ago I scribed my ESL homework.
A forty-year-old … Passing me, students
would not have noticed the difference in our pasts.
In a Kusturica movie about post-war
Yugoslavia, a photographer asks a group
of peasants to smile at his camera. In dusty
black suits, with copper wrinkles plowing
their faces, they try, but their eyes are too full
and the corners of their lips poorly cooperate.
As ladies from the Woodway Bible Class
told me, “We can’t relate to those countries.
You must be grateful the US adopted you.”
I’m grateful for this sunset piercing oak leaves
with the green of a ripe grape, Shepherd
School windows that blind me with the sun,
yet I see the blackboard with Copland’s notes
and young musicians bending with laughter
like in a silent movie. I want to hear them,
to adopt their past, a past I could not have.
Here is your pencil.
Elina Petrova has two poetry books in English and one in Russian. Her poems have appeared in Texas Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Porter House Review, Texas Poetry Calendars, FreeFall, Poetry of the American Southwest series by Dos Gatos Press, various anthologies by Mutabilis Press, and several anthologies of Houston, Austin and Waco poetry festivals.