Nettles could replace the cabbage, the salt and saffron milk-caps
halved and cut with stock, water, proportions intuited and spun wetly
over flame. My infant grandmother satcheled to the left hip, warmed
into consuming sleep while soup thickens kitchen air. Cities are fled:
Moscow and Vyazma, my grandmother in the same satchel spirited
to Bryansk, later tankered across the Atlantic. My mother’s version
exchanges broth for ground meat, her own border also an evacuation,
New York City too expensive a place to raise a family.
But I have no idea where I’m from. The first night after moving back
to the city my parents swore away, I boiled cabbage and salt,
divided the briney leaves into tupperware then laid flat
on the bare wood of my bedroom floor. There I dreamt already
of escape. I was too slow and outmanned to break the guarded lines.
I imagined them then taking the body, whiskered in arrows, beyond
Astoria’s blockaded boulevards and setting it to drift down the East River.
The truth is I’ve never been brave enough to stay anywhere. Strong arms,
the Egyptian trainer remarked after offering me my first job in the city,
enough for the room and a Metrocard. And I still don’t know.
These hectic arms. All those strange and lovely nights. On which hip
will the satchel rest just to be somewhere? What strong arms?