Airmail Letters

# 1

bluer than his blind eye
is the letter my Opa
holds in his enormous hands,

my mother’s pen
has tattooed the frail paper
with this month’s
immigration stories,
cheery bravado disguises
her endless dismay
at Canada’s unforgiving climate,
the cabin’s rough boards
forever leaving splinters
in her dancer’s feet.

memory clear as
a new marble, I can see him
slouched on his end of the couch
his good suit immaculate,
the pinstripes origami-creased
where his long legs
fold to accommodate
my Oma’s endless
brass knickknacks, set
so precisely on the granite table.

her canary, always named Piet,
no matter how many times he dies,
sings passionately, caged
against the inevitable rain
that is Holland in winter

the blue letter trembles
slightly; he feels my mother’s
loneliness, the words not
there like Braille
amidst her brave stories,

I can see the secret tears
my Oma said he cried,
each one bluer than the ocean
that ebbed between them,
caught quietly in his giant
handkerchief, never
becoming ink
with which to write
her back.

# 2

the blue now as brittle
as my Oma’s frail bones,
letters huddle in the heavy
drawer of the oak sideboard
its wood baked nearly
black by fifty years in
that same sunny window.

eventually my Opa refused
to read their stories,
his anger fierce each time
our postmark changed again,
another new Canadian town,
names he stumbled
to pronounce:
Whistler,
Vancouver,
Wasa Lake,
Kaslo.

the first time
his little girl, my mother,
tried to leave the country,
he would not sign
her passport application,
as if red tape
would keep her from
dreaming of worlds
beyond his village,
as if she could understood
what she asked of him –
how after burying his son
the loss of another child
was too difficult to imagine,
worse than losing his eye,
worse than the war
that had shattered his skull.

her thick letters so
full of her determined
spirit, so riddled with
hardship, homesick, longing –
he could not fold them open
to let her voice dance
from the pages,
made my Oma share
only the bits of good news
as he smoked his Panthers,
his big right thumb buffing
the other thumbnail
until it shone vivid as regret.

# 3

Opa worked at least two jobs,
chauffeur, doorman, courier,
brought home banknotes
for my Oma to hide
in her silver teapot,
under Piet’s birdcage,
saving to bring us home.

hope mailed in my
Oma’s blue letters,
bright bills wrapped in
the thin foil of the chocolate
they had each day at tea,
“voor iets lekkers”
(for something good)
she wrote in sharp angles,
“tot gauw!” (until soon!).

on each side
of the Atlantic
letters collect,
worlds too foreign
to decipher,
decisions too big to erase.

~ Dymphny Dronyk

Dymphny Dronyk is a writer, artist, mediator and mother. She is passionate about the magic of story and has woven words for money (journalism, corporate writing) and for love (poetry, fiction, drama, mystery novels) for over 25 years. Her first volume of poetry Contrary Infatuations, (Frontenac House, Quartet 2007) was short listed for two prestigious awards in 2008. She is also the author of the memoir Bibi – A Life in Clay (Prairie Art Gallery, 2009). She is the co-founder/publisher of House of Blue Skies, Alberta’s newest micropublisher, and co-editor of the best-selling anthology Writing the Land: Alberta through its Poets, with Angela Kublik. The anthology is currently in its third printing.

“I am a trans-Atlantic vagabond. Home is where my loved ones share a meal. Home is where I keep my books.”

Read more of Dymphny Dronyk’s poetry:
Blue Sky Seeks No Definition
The Mothers
Christmas Eve
Extinction
A World Without Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder
A Sunday Poem
Our Empty, Empty Bed
Ode to Al Purdy – A Litter of Poets

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

One Response to “Airmail Letters”

  1. Beautiful! I visualized my grandmother in Poland opening my late father’s letters, deciphering all the hope, hardship, disappointments, accomplishments that she could only imagine from across the Atlantic.

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