The Immigrants in Slavic Village: Cleveland 1955
by Linda Nemec Foster

The Hungarian kids wear thin jackets missing
buttons. Stain of paprika in their mouths.
The Czechs pretend they know everybody’s secrets
even those of Slovak Joe who spits at their shadows.
The Ukrainians can’t stand the only neighbors
who can understand their language: those goddamn
Russians who starved their grandparents to death
in the twenties. The Lithuanians refuse to open
the blinds after dusk; something about the night
air stealing the breath of infants. And the Poles,
those men and women in love with the Black
Madonna, wash their hands before touching
their children–the sons and daughters as pale as water.
At night, the moon gets tangled in the open arms
of the dead oak tree on Salem Avenue and
can’t decide if it’s winter or spring, summer or fall.
The same bareness waits to embrace it every night.

 

 


 

Linda Nemec Foster is the author of nine collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (finalist for the Ohioana Book Award in Poetry) and Listen to the Landscape (short-listed for the Michigan Notable Book Award).  Her most recent book, Talking Diamonds, was selected by ForeWord Magazine as a finalist for the 2010 Book of the Year.  Her poems have also been published in journals (The Georgia Review, New American Writing), translated in Europe, and produced for the stage.  A native of Cleveland, she is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.