Gypsy Lullaby

City neighbors
know each other
in furtive ways:
glimpses, strains and signs –
early morning radio,
Faure at dusk, the smell
of burnt toast ,
and always boots drying
on the landing
in winter
I was rarely home those days,
exotic scents pursued me,
Tibetan shrines,
Berbers in Marrakech
waiting by oases.
I saw my neighbor fleetingly,
‘Vous allez bien……and your cats?’
One night the doorbell rang.
A fur-hooded woman
lean, sad, and chocolate-eyed
stepped in from the curtain
of an ice-folded night
‘My mother lived downstairs’
this in a whisper,
‘she died last night. She said
she heard you sing a lullaby
she wants to hear again.’
The chapel small,
a handful came,
the coldest Feb on record.
Down from the Urals, summoned,
the gypsy Crone came
across a century
of wolf-howled steppes
Tugging one child – my mother –
through the waist – deep snow.
She clutched another
in a ragged wrap
starved, frozen dead,
at her breast.
Snow falls on an open grave
on sills, and waiting stone angels.
My grandmother comes to sit,
wearily on a dark oak pew
beside me
Her voice,
a clear redemption,
fills the chapel, fills eternity,
with her plaintif lullaby
and the stillness of
a Holy Night
at last an unknown neighbor
sighs in sleep
and the stone angels weep

~ Marian Robson

Maria Robson is a Montreal teacher, freelance writer and translator who loves to travel and research, first hand, the nomadic life. She is currently working at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.

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