Poetry Wednesday – Doukhobor by John Newlove

DoukhoborDoukhobor Plow Hitching

When you die and your weathery corpse
lies on the chipped kitchen table,

the wind blowing the wood of your house
painted in shades of blue, farmer

out from Russia as the century turned,
died, and lay at the feet of the wars,

who will ever be able to say for you
what you thought at the sight of the Czar’s horsemen

riding with whips among you, the sight
of the rifles burning on bonfires,

the long sea-voyage, strange customs endured,
officials changing your name

into the strange script that covered the stores,
the polite brown men who spoke no language

you understood and helped you
free your team from Saskatchewan winter mud,

who will be able to say for you
just what you thought as the villages marched

naked to Eden and the English
went to war and came back again

with their funny ways, proud
to speak of killing each other, you, whose mind

refused to slaughter, refused the blood,
you who will lie in your house, stiff as winter,

dumb as an ox, unable to love,
while your women sob and offer the visitors tea?

John Newlove
From:   Apology for Absence: Selected Poems 1962-1992. Erin, Ontario: Porcupine’s Quill, 1993. p.98.