Childhood

Dorothea Lange, Mississippi Delta Negro Children, 1936
Yellow water
in the stockyard –
far away and cold, a priori,

and there, like drumsticks,
alphabets without end
of untamed children:

oh! Broken Glass, Splinter and Straw,
oh! Linear Scythian Winds,
and like carnival scuffles in cellars,
Paper and Paper and Paper;

oh! ship’s boys of straw,
oh! damp of letters on fingers!

HERE AND NOW – IT SEEMS TO CUT,
BUT ONLY ME, NOT YOU!
CUTTING – THROUGH PICTURES AND DRESSES
AND CLAWS OF BIRDS!

Cows’ hooves are bright, unbelievable,
like sailing into a bay,
or like a dance,

and then, like the pounding of rails,
bright and wide and unsparing
the embrace of those who were with us –
hands, sisters, necks, mothers!

let us breathe again, let us breathe,
let us sleep again and pass
not yesterday, today or tomorrow, o-o-o-o-o!-

THROUGH CHILDREN’S SHOUTS,
THROUGH DAMP OF LETTERS,
THROUGH PICTURES AND DRESSES
AND CLAWS OF BIRDS!

Poem by Gennady Aigi, 1960
–Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1936

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