DOUKHOBOR

John Newlove

From: Apology for Absence: Selected Poems 1962-1992. Erin, Ontario: Porcupine's Quill, 1993. p.98.

When you die and your weathery corpse

lies on the chipped kitchen table,


the wind blowing the wood of your house

painted in shades of blue, farmer


out from Russia as the century turned,

died, and lay at the feet of the wars,


who will ever be able to say for you

what you thought at the sight of the Czar's horsemen


riding with whips among you, the sight

of the rifles burning on bonfires,


the long sea-voyage, strange customs endured,

officials changing your name


into the strange script that covered the stores,

the polite brown men who spoke no language


you understood and helped you

free your team from Saskatchewan winter mud,


who will be able to say for you

just what you thought as the villages marched


naked to Eden and the English

went to war and came back again


with their funny ways, proud

to speak of killing each other, you, whose mind


refused to slaughter, refused the blood,

you who will lie in your house, stiff as winter,


dumb as an ox, unable to love,

while your women sob and offer the visitors tea?










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