Friday, January 14, 2011

The Latvian Ladies

Last weekend I went to a lovely wedding but there was just one problem (una pega we'd say in Spanish): the groom has a possibly life threatening illness.  Only the Latvians can (as my sister says) mix love and death.  Or perhaps there is always the shadow of death behind us or hovering just in front.  Anyway, that brings me to my poem which was written about my uncle.  He was a tall scarecrow skinny man who played round after round of solitaire and made his own cigarettes with a plastic machine.  Here's to Antons:

The Latvian Ladies   
The Latvian ladies
fry up liver, body warm
from the butchered pig
its stink of singed hair
still hangs
over the kitchen
and they chatter.
He won’t last
til the carrots are brought in.
My uncle, thin,
fades in their eyes.
The ground hard,
not yet frozen
yields bitter greens and
small forgotten potatoes.
My uncle’s body worn out,
to be shed as easily
as the fallen leaves,
dry and brittle underfoot.


  1. Brilliant poem! Imagery is frighteningly vivid. Love the thinness of the lines, which echoes the thinness of your uncle.


  2. Wonderful poem, Teresa. It conjures a vivid scene: the warmth of the kitchen, the smells, the chatter and the Latvian ladies (who, we don't have to be told, are surely lively). And then it transitions abruptly ("He won't last til the carrots are brought in") to the stark reality of life's end. What is that your sister says about Latvians mixing life and death?

  3. My favorite poem of love and death is Wallace Steven's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird".