As if – poem inspired by Michelle Pacansky-Brock #digiwrimo

Thank you for your beautifully worded post, Michelle Pacansky-Brock.

I first shared these images in a blog post back in 2009. They are part of a historical narrative contained within an autograph book which belonged to my maternal grandmother.

(I attempt to write down the story)

As if 1917 were still now.

As if the colours have just been applied with the brush,

as if the painter has just left the room to make a cup of tea.

As if the sled has just arrived,

leaving straight lines in the snow

punctuated by horses’ hooves

and the travellers’ impatience to dismount has marked the snow with hurried footprints.

As if the anticipation of the travellers lives on perpetually,

as if the barely contained joy of the husband and father is about to happen right now

and the warm, strong embraces can be felt over and over:

the first embrace for the little daughter, then a kiss for the newborn son, and finally the longest one for the soul companion

whose letters have sustained a solitary confinement.

As if the tears shed remain moist on the cheek and the loving words white clouds that linger in the cold air frozen forever.

As if the story of war-torn families is the same everywhere

and every day husbands, fathers, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, grandmothers, grandfathers and babies

are living and reliving the moment when dreams are realised and the family is reunited.

As if 1917 is now and in the future.

Background to the illustrations:

The verse and illustrations were by a family friend in an autograph book belonging to my grandmother, telling part of their story.

The father/husband in the story is my maternal grandmother’s father. She is the little girl in the picture and the baby is her brother (who died from tuberculosis at the age of 18). Her father was staying in Siberia for work.  They were Germans in Ukraine, and my grandmother was born in Ukraine. My grandmother identified as German Russian.

The second illustration is part of a story written in the form of a poem by a friend of the family.  The poem and illustrations relate the story of this episode of their lives in 1915 (but the poem is dated 1917). Poetry in verse was commonly written by Ukrainian and Russian people at the time (and even now).

11 thoughts on “As if – poem inspired by Michelle Pacansky-Brock #digiwrimo”

  1. Beautiful. Thank you for reading my post, for continuing the conversation, and for sharing with us all.

    1. Thanks Maha. For me it was an interesting experience imagining out loud. Even though it didn’t take me long to write, and I’d known the story from my mother, it was strangely emotional putting it into words.

  2. … straight lines in the snow …
    the overcast skies
    threaten to cover our tracks,
    as if time were visible and malleable
    so we close our eyes,
    shutter shots of senses, captured,
    for a quieter time, down the line,
    when we will shift into remembrance.

    PS — some line-lifting to honor your poem and post.

    1. It’s wonderful when somebody takes the time to read, then pull out lines and write on. Thank you so much. DiGiWriMo is so much fun, Kevin.

  3. Thank you Tania, – how perfect that, coincidentally, I read this on the 97th anniversary of the Armistice of WWI.

    It is yet another reminder of how quickly I can make assumptions that are challenging to shake. For some reason, I had decided that the male was the grandfather and it really threw me when your poem made it obvious that he was the husband/father. What I find so interesting is that was hard for me to shift my thinking once I had decided on it being a grandfatherly relationship. Perhaps it was the age of the illustration that reminded me of my grandfather. . . sigh

    Kevin . . . I love your line lifting! It inspires me to write more. Once again, thank-you Tania for your post which is delightful and the role it played in initiating this comment thread.

    1. Thank you so much for coming in to share your thoughts. It’s what I love best about writing in a blog. I think your assumption about the male character might have something to do with the way he is illustrated – he does look elderly, I agree.

      Kevin has a talent for getting into someone’s writing, feeling it, and weaving it further in a creative way. I love the support of the DiGiWriMo community because otherwise whatever I wrote would just sit there unread.

  4. This is such a beautiful story Tania and makes me pine to have words written down from my own grandparents. What I would do for an insight into their inner thoughts and that link with their lives.

    I wonder how our descendants will find our digital artifacts, our digital writings, will it be easy or will some be lost as websites rise and platforms rise and fall? Will they endure longer than our beautiful hardcopy artifacts which we preserve against time?

    1. I know, Angela, me too. I sometimes think if I stare long and hard enough at what artifacts remain of a loved one, maybe magically I’ll feel some kind of connection.
      As for our descendants – I feel that some things are too personal and are just to be lived, not kept and read by others. I threw out the letters my husband and I wrote to each other before we married – the first separation 8 months and the second 6.

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