Katia Kapovich

Vita Nova
May 12, 2013 Kapovich Katia

Vita Nova


Born on the outskirts of the Romanian kingdom

in ’34, seven years before the war,

you saw the first bombs rain upon your shtetl

at 6 am, people falling under silver trickles

of fire, the bridge collapsing behind you

without a sound (your mother had covered your ears

with her hands). Those red shoes you wore, the yellow dress,

the new watch (a gift from your dad), and pearls of tears

were your good luck charms during the wartime mess.

When your father went missing you wrote on passing trains

the time, your name and the name of the village

you were being taken to. What did you write it with?

I’ve never asked you whether it was a rock,

a piece of chalk or a nail that left your message

on the green train cars. How did you manage?

Was it worth it? Sixty seven, to be precise, years later

is it still visible as your granddaughter

bites on her pen writing about you,

fishing for “something memorable” for a project due

tomorrow, that you were born in a kingdom whose king

was a little boy.

Katia Kapovich has published seven books of poetry in Russian and two in English, the latest Cossacks and Bandits (Salt, 2008). Her poems have appeared in the London Review of Books, Poetry, The New Republic, Harvard Review, The Independent, Jacket, and many others.  She is a co-editor of Fulcrum.