She has no middle name,
but as she was born on Pentecost
Wasil and Eva named her
Rosalia, Rose for short.
As far as I know, she is nowhere
to be found in books of merit,
not even the search engines of cyberspace
can find her. Even her baptismal font
at Holy Trinity in a miners’ patch
has disappeared, along with the town.
They tried to find it, a decade back,
near the Ohio, near West Virginia,
but the tall grasses and insurmountable oaks
occluded discovery. Of course,
This is to be expected of a Rusin girl,
whose sotted father could have been noble,
if he hadn’t choked on dust and forgotten the sun …
a poet for a mother who could have written,
had she known the tongue and time enough.
Her mother loved the mining town,
the Ohio valley was close enough
in the geography of memory,
proximal to the Carpathian mountains:
She had an eye, and memory
for beauty. And that is why
Eva called her daughter Rose.
I pray for her, Rose, now stary baba,
now older than ever Eva was.
Eva took her family to the steel migration
and factories where Russki’s could do better
than blackened lungs, vodka-slaked,
Wasil could no longer take the sun,
and he was no longer.
So Rose and her sisters hired out
as goyyim, cleaning, lighting fires on the Sabbath,
hands accustomed to pirohi
now mixing shabbos koogle …
But then the War, and she really, really
ran the riveter, as the poster said.
The War ended, the party began,
and she danced in the evenings
and ran down to Havana and drove cross country,
still shy, but a country fizzed by victory
can make anyone gregarious for a while.
I pray for her, Rose, now crescent-like,
in Room 529, bound by telemetry wires,
IV lines, and nurses half her age,
who never knew hunger, wrath and want.
She met my father-in-law in her thirty-ninth year
and had her one and only in her fortieth.
They found each other, from both sides of the Tatras,
in a steel town, long from the War:
everyone else had taken up the GI Bill
and moved their digs into cute square houses,
but not Henry and Rose, ex-POW and shy daughter
of an illiterate poet who danced once near Castillo de la Punta.
They found each other, at last,
in time to bring another girl into the world.
I know this Rose only from the slides:
so many beach pictures of a little red head
and Rose, with a scarf and Hepburn shades,
the breeze from the surf mottling the lens
and echoing through the cooling fan of the lamp
the sonorous booms and streamful recessions
of waves on sand, and the Sun sounding the land.
I pray for her, Rose, now forgetful,
every familiarity wrenched from view and grasp,
now bathed in execrable fluorescence,
and her roommate’s penchant for All My Children
all freaking day,
but she says never a word, as she never did,
never a complaint nor murmur,
wondering, maybe, but never saying
why this was happening.
She slipped one day, and no one knew
she crushed a vertebrae,
and set her hip out of line
and somehow bacteria got in her spine,
we do not understand,
and never shall she.
But I pray for her, Rosalia, named
by Eve for Pentecost,
no middle name, no name for fame,
but named by a Trinity Who knows every sparrow.
I will take Rose, tomorrow
her old Chlib Duši, her battered book of prayer,
thumbed and smudged beyond repair,
you know, the kind that has English on the side
and Slavonic on the other.
It seems that when you’ve got dementia
and you were born Rusin
you begin to hear clearly the echoes
of Holy Trinity in a place
that the soul sets close to a home
for Rose, that she never had
but will. The Our Father never sounds so good
when you’re ill and lame,
until it’s said in the original Otce Naš:
For prayer is the original tongue,
in the land where Rose will finally get
her middle name.