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Jane Muschenetz – Poetry

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Jane Muschenetz

DomestiCity

When I close my eyes, the dishwasher
sounds like a train on tracks. I am transported
from Kitchen to          Poetry
As a child, I dozed on Soviet trains
my American kids were soothed by cars
Some mothers swear by vacuums, or
the gentle rock and hum of a washing machine’s cycle
There is something relentless in both
the doing of dishes and the oncoming train…
So many modern conveniences
lull us to sleep

 

Homeward Bound

We don’t have a cow to forget to milk, instead
We have Instacart, but I forget that too
Unpaid are the bills on the counter
Unwashed are the kids behind the ears
Don’t look
I have cut power to the electric fence
Of a well-run life
The plants, un-potted, are ranging into the neighbor’s WiFi
All our ceiling fans have flown south for the winter
And    Oh     My     God

I can see the sky

 

Small Work

As a child
Trapped at the cutting board
Surrounded by boiled, rooted things—beets, potatoes, carrots
Longing to be (sprouting, leafing, unearthed)
I didn’t know how fully grown
I would sit at the same task voluntarily
Finding solace (meditative transcendence?)
In the easy skill of my well-trained hands
Making small work of vegetables under my blade
As if the cutting of soft things
Into precise, tiny parts made everything else
Manageable

I am following a well-laid path
Through soups and salads of my youth
Home tastes just so…
My auntie’s praise, a mouthful of pride
“Look how even her cubes of onions are!”
Put away and wash, wipe and set the table—
Ingredients for not falling apart

When I complained, or tried to rush, my mother
Did not say how much it matters
To have, if nothing else,
These basic things I can do well
Instead, she wrapped my hands around the practical wisdom of a kitchen knife:
“Zhenichka, it is important, to know how to feed yourself and others”

 

Definitions

“This is poetry?” English words are
interlopers in my mother’s mouth
they wear a disguise to fit in
‘Th’ – ‘S’ sounds take on hard ‘Z’ edges
‘V’s stand in for ‘W’s, ‘R’s roll with it better, but
they’re not fooling anybody

“Where lines? Where Rhymes?” she demands
there are no rules—
America!
Maybe, but where are rhyme and reason found on a map?

She goes to the shelf to show me
A cover creased more than her still smooth hands
She and the book hold each other (dear friends)
A pause. A sigh. She remembers…
I am here
Inside this book
Russian words sing and open doors
like keys to the soul—
Her tongue is their home,
(my mother’s lips close on the threshold)

I am also crying

Alphabets incubate between us
a language of light, hope, and despair
“This,” she says, taking a quiet breath to unfold
a bent page
“This is poetry”

 


Emerging writer and fully grown MIT nerd, Jane (Yevgenia!) Muschenetz, came to the US as a Jewish child refugee from Ukraine. Now mom to two very American kids, Jane’s work appears or is forthcoming in San Diego Poetry Annual, Uppagus, Meat for Tea, Sheila-Na-Gig, and elsewhere. www.palmfrondzoo.com

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