poetryrepairs 15.03:034

GILI HAIMOVICH : The Butterfly Catcher

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And So We Came

and so we came my child and i in our linty clothing and all, always with each other even when weíre with others, lonely together, jolly together; is it only desperation that I hope not to share with her? and so we came my sharp baby and i, encircled by lint. who can come into this circle, her father? and so we came, my jolly jumper girl and i, gloating together so brightly no one will gaze at what is required to make it work, my child and i.

poetryrepairs #210 15,03:034

The Butterfly Catcher

My caterpillar, you make your way out of the swaddled blanket to my breast. Youíll need to repeat it day in day out until you bloom into a butterfly and stretch your wings to join your sisterís nursery. The nursery is not where I nurse you, itís where I leave you behind. Iím a butterfly-catcher trying to seize my images through the net of exhaustion.

poetryrepairs #210 15,03:034


(For Mikhail)
August 7, 1992, Sharya

"The Russian fields are the most beautiful I have seen," I say to your friends when I make my toast. To you I say it again. They change me, these fields of Russia. It was you who taught me to love them, and you who bring me to see them in all their naked loveliness, here in Sharya. I sit at the desk where you wrote the novel into which you put everything you knew then about the human soul, and, as you wrote, your hair turned grey. We traverse these distances like snow geese. "God helps us," you tell me. I believe you. "You brought the rain," you say. "It means good luck. They are happy you are here because you brought the rain." They toast me again and again. They sing to me, their faces full of tenderness and longing, old Russian songs. They want to make me happy, these friends of yours. We feast and drink fruit wine; they sing and drink. I tell them what I feel in Russian. They understand my new language, and sing some more. They want me to love their Russia, their mother. I already do. I already feel that their Russia is my Russia. Your fields, lying peacefully in the late afternoon by a lake where water lilies float like swans in the shallows, and cattails stand solemnly, like the herons when they're fishing and waiting, are already my fields. This beauty you cherish is mine because you led me deeper into it, showed me the real meaning of a birch, how, in centuries past but not forgotten, the birch was mother to the peasants, giving them warmth, isbas, cooking utensils, tools. How they worshiped her, this mother, and, when they wanted to speak to the spirits above, they put their arms around her, rested against her breast, put their cheeks to her bark, and prayed. Vera says that everyone needs a tree of her own. Hers is an oak. From this oak she draws strength when she's weary in spirit; exhausted from her labors to take care of the land and the people she loves. She has her driver take us along the road she had built. We drive many miles past forests of birch, pine, and fir. I wonder where we are going. Then the car stops. We get out. She wanted us to see her land, to stand where she stands when her soul needs to see farther, better, deeper. I take this view she loves into my soul. Let it help me later when I am thousands of miles away. Let me remember these fields, stretching to their borders of forest, resting like peaceful children in a sleep only the gods know how to give. And Tatyana tells me how she fell in love with two priests. It was their eyes. Their eyes were like lakes. The more she looked, the more deeply she saw into those clear waters. She is laughing, like I do, at myself. I feel her young and playful soul. Love makes us both foolish. We laugh. And this Mayor of Sharya, who keeps filling my glass and telling me stories as if I knew all the Russian words in the dictionary. I turn to my interpreter. Katya can't imagine how to translate what he's saying. I tell her again and again not to worry. She worries. He puts his hand on my arm and tells me something else, affectionately. He is expansive and happy. The American likes him, his wine, his liqueur, his food, his friends, his Russia. I read his heart without the help of dictionary or interpreter. Katya, meantime, on my left, wants to tell me about the lost churches of Soligalich. She has a book she wants to give me. An Englishman photographed them not long before the Revolution. After the Revolution they were destroyed. They were very beautiful. She's still grieving. I say that I've already seen many beautiful Russian churches. They and the isbas are my favorite architecture. "They are being restored now. Not all were lost." "But these churches in Soligalich," she says, "they can't be restored." She worries about Russia, too, its people, their souls. She reads philosophy to understand Russia. Is there a distinct Russian culture, she wonders. I tell her yes. I am learning it. It reaches me here like these soft fields, which lie like children against the breasts of their mother. It's in the shining eyes, the generous spirits of these people. "We help each other," says Vera. "It's how we survive." Then there are the birches, their strength slender, but generously present. They are everywhere. They give all they have. They are Russia, but, more than the birches, these people, singing what their souls have learned about how suffering is not where it ends; there's a place beyond pain, though painful; a place of joy, yet never absolute; a place where all the notes may blend; where grief is present but does not destroy music or joy or the resilient human soul.

poetryrepairs #210 15,03:034

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