Until she was 17,
The only big city she had ever seen was Kiev.
At 19, she saw New York,
Though only from train stations and tracks
That took her past the backs of warehouses
And then out into countryside again.
Peter arrived to take her the last few miles in his wagon;
He introduced himself, looking down at his old boots,
Then hoisted her bag, helped her up,
And took her home.
Wheat is wheat,
Wherever you find it;
Men and women not so different, really, either.
Sometimes he would imitate the way she spoke his name,
With the hard "r",
But his smile and the look in his eyes
Made her lower hers and turn to some task to hide her pleasure at having pleased him somehow.
The sun is the sun,
Wherever you find it;
And night falls warm in summer just the same.
With her head on his chest,
Together in the bed he had built and she had made sweet,
She told him how, when she was a girl,
They would sometimes see the Gypsy wagons going by on the dusty road.
She loved the women's red skirts, and knew then that she would wander.
"And look where I end up," she would say, smiling,
And swing herself on top of him,
Her hair unbound and just beginning to gray.
She was his match, you know,
His Ukrainian wife;
"What does that mean?" he had asked,
So she told him the old saw,
That a Ukrainian wife nags like a mother in law,
Looks like an ox,
And beats you like a Cossack.
Then she brandished a wooden spoon at him, eyes big;
Laughter is laughter,
And a good thing wherever you find it.
Three heads in the afternoon,
She would see across the fields--
Two horses and her husband under a prairie sun.
When late one morning she felt a pain low in her belly,
She kept beating rugs, mucking stalls,
Telling Russian fairy stories to her little Sam;
The one with his daddy's eyes
And her father's silver cross around his neck.
It may be that home is where the onion domes rise,
Or it may be that home is where the wheat grows high;
But life and sweetness are wherever you find them--
Down Ukrainian Gypsy tracks
To American sod.
for the Weekend Challenge at Real Toads, featuring Mary Ann Potter.
I was inspired by this photograph of Mary Ann's, which made me wonder what and who this house had sheltered in happier times, and also by this haunting song written and sung by the spifftastic Emmylou Harris.