Even the swallows knew enough
to leave, their wings plotting south
in a sky sickened by winter.
A sea-girl from Petersburg she drove Russian men
mad, her song like balalaikas clinging.
Even the muse perched on the bar stool
beside her longed to be human, seeing her
passion for lindens and bone china, her exquisite sex.
Once walking to the cabaret she wept for
the child she abandoned: I have other
women’s dreams to haunt my mirrors.
“Nun-harlot,” they dubbed her, a “vixen
who mixes sin with prayer,” a portion
that led her not to a tsarevich gleaming
in the wings but to wives and mothers
waiting in the wings, friends vanishing,
she wore pain like angora
through the long Russian thaw.
Three-hundredth in the prison queue
a woman behind her asked:
Can you write of this?
I can, she whispered.
And she stayed.
[From Crossing Borders]
From the Women Write the Rockies Web site:
Crossing Borders is Rita Brady Kiefer’s first collections of poems to appear since Nesting Doll, a finalist for the 2000 Colorado Book Award. Since then she has also completed My Name Is Not Eve, a full-length play that evolved from 28 years of weekly writing sessions with survivors of domestic violence. EVE was eventually performed at the site of the noted Curious Theatre in Denver as a benefit for a local Denver women’s shelter, and at Mesa State University in Grand Junction. Also to her credit are two poetry chapbooks and almost 200 poems published in national and international journals, some translated for print in Argentina and Spain. Several poems have appeared in the anthologies: Face to Face (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Hunger Enough (Pudding House Press), The Crimson Edge (Chicory Blue Press), and Beyond Lament (Northwestern University Press).