He left home suddenly,
Just ahead of the police,
Or the army, whosever day it was
To reach out and torment him.

He left home,
Unread book left open on the couch,
Dishes left unwashed,
Door still open
As if astonished at the turn of events.

He left home
Just ahead of his brother,
Who, running late
Arrived just after the police.

Years later, thinking
Of the gulag,
Thinking of his brother,
He wept, alone,
Longing for the comfort of prison.


In the distance,
I see him coming, the stride
Unmistakable, the smile forgiving,
Even at that distance

He carries the ghosts of my ancestors,
The last of a generation
A link to a past unbidden
And yet desperately sought.

We meet in the middle of the bridge
And embrace
“A hundred grams?” he says,
His eyes, guarded but hopeful.

“You’ll buy me a vodka?”


In winter, stars seem uninterested,
cold, like the wind against your face,
not white-hot, but just white
without a trace of irony,

and the moon itself,
while sympathetic,
just shrugs its way
across the frozen sky.

You dig yourself deeper
and sleep, aware
of the special cold
of a pointless dawn.

My Latvia

This far north, Winter
Comes like some uncle,
Dearly loved, but always too early
For supper, and staying into the

Small dark hours, full of tales of
Death and sadness,
And there you are, longing
For the break of Spring

Then Summer comes,
And you rush to embrace her
Like an old sweet regret,
Anxious not to screw things up this time,
And cling too tightly

Until finally, inevitably,
She slips away, again too soon.
And Winter says,
I told you this is how it would be.

Midsummer, Riga

11 pm in Riga
Windows wide as yawning
Outide it’s as bright as a cloudy day
In St. Louis

Some workmen decide
It’s a fine time to install a kiosk
Across the street
Just because

Drilling, banging, smoking
A marvelous night’s work
No one sleeps
Time enough for that
In winter

I sit up
Banging out poems
With a relentless clatter