Jambyl, Kazakhstan, 1943. Moses –
my father’s redheaded father, in his round
glasses and broadcloth helmet saved
since his years in the Red Cavalry –
stood on the step of a GAZ-MM truck
and spread his military trenchcoat into
the space of the missing windshield to protect
his wife and child against the slapping rain.
In the similar way, my dad often shielded my mother,
me, and others whenever things got broken.
The semi-blind commander of the engineering
echelon, Moses wasn’t sent to Stalingrad
where my other grandfather fought (survived
and painted factories with portraits of Stalin
whom he hated). This note is not about them,
though – only about my four-year-old
evacuee father and irrigation ditches
called aryqi in the Kazakh language.
Collected from the ridge, mountain water
slowly forked to gardens. The boy, devising
a way to speed the flow to his aryq, blocked
a collector with dirt after water reached his yard.
Neighbors from lower areas appeared, shouting
as the boy learned that family was much broader
than what he thought – many thirsty and hungry
whom, thereafter, the son of Moses never failed.
Until 2007, Elina Petrova lived in Ukraine and worked in engineering management. She published two poetry books in English (Aching Miracle, 2015, and Desert Candles, 2019) and one in her native Russian language. Her poems have appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Texas Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Southwestern American Literature, California Quarterly, and Wicked Wit (runner-up award for Public Poetry), as well as numerous anthologies.