Back to Issue Forty-Three



Winter. All day, the birch’s white dead face
looks through my window. The brown-sugared
tea cools on the stove in a cerulean pot. The frost

licks the windshield of my car en route to the grocery store,
where I buy my potatoes, my dill, my eggs
and pickled onions, where I listen to the news

on my phone. The reserves have been called up and
the diplomats expelled. My brother and my mother
at the embassy, calling me, telling me things

are about to get very ugly very fast. States
of emergency have been declared. On this side of sanity,
gas prices are increased by an arm, then a leg.

And while this happens, I sit in my room,
conjugate my Russian verbs: I die. You die. He/She dies.
We die. You die. They die. I found out

that during the Siege of Leningrad, there were two
formal designations for cannibals: corpse-eating
and people-eating. The latter usually shot, the former

sent to prison. You can have your principles
when you’ve got something to eat. You leave
when you must leave.




is from Odessa, is the only other person in the old
folks’ home who can speak Russian like my father speaks
Russian, who can talk about Chekhov like he can,
and who pours him his wine at happy hour,
arranges cut fruit on a plate. When I visit the first time,
my father prods me in the back, hisses in the stale air
of the common area: Поговори с ней! Talk with her!
I don’t know what to say, won’t salt the air
with my imperfect grammar, and my too-sweet tea,
which my father hates, my father and his black
coffee, my father, who is the only person who will speak to me
in Russian anymore. I don’t dream in any language
but the one I have lost. My father, answering every phone call
with моя дочь, my daughter, softly. My answer: softer.


Kathryn Bratt-Pfotenhauer’s work has previously been published or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Beloit Poetry Journal, Meridian, and others. A 2023 Pushcart Prize winner, they have won awards from the Ledbury Poetry Festival and Bryn Mawr College, and they have received support from The Seventh Wave and Tin House. Their chapbook, Small Geometries, is forthcoming with Ethel Zine & Micro Press in April/May 2023. They attend Syracuse University’s MFA program.

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