[ from The Cold Slavic Heart]
XXVII. Praskovya Fyodorovna
They said she was floating in the shallows
of the Moscow river when they found her, her head resting
on a foreign instrument. Even the violinist from out of town
suggested it should dry in the sun before it can be played.
Praskovya woke up speaking old Slavonic, could walk only on her hands,
the skirt covering her face like a fountain of velvet rags.
The first thing they said was her left ankle was no longer beautiful,
that the freckles on her cheeks had migrated to her hairline,
that she could be a lost circus artist, that the Praskovya they knew was afraid
of plucked domestic chickens, that the third painter had already moulded
the ankle of a Bolshoi ballerina who would never appear
with a necklace of mosquito bites.
When she coughed up the caravan tea, the priest stopped translating
her long tales of a rusty blade hidden in the ribs of an accordion,
the hole through which accordion kept breathing out
when her sisters played it, breathing out the dust from the childhood attic
of her future offspring.
The villagers crossed themselves and turned the other way
to listen to the violinist scrape a tune out of the strange instument,
which sounded just like the fourteen-year-old choir beginning
to crack at its last recital.
Margarita Delcheva’s poems have appeared in Fugue, Ep;phany, Sixth Finch, BOMBlog, and Tuesday: An Art Project. Margarita currently resides in Brooklyn, and teaches writing.