LARISSA

I went to see Larissa but she wasn’t home.

She wasn’t home because she was in the hospital.

She had been sick but I didn’t know how sick.

She had a cough. She said she had a cold.

Months later, I’d learn she’d died.

She had cancer, which she knew but didn't talk about.

 

Every week or so she’d invite me in for borscht. 

We’d sit at her kitchen table and eat and talk and laugh.

When life got serious she’d say, “That is life. You must smile.”

We’d watch fog roll down Twin Peaks toward us.

She’d tell me stories about home, about hunger, and how it hurt.

How it got so bad and so cold that when someone died in winter
their family would put their body out on the balcony.

Until the ground thawed, they’d live with frozen relatives

just beyond reach, separated by a pane of glass.

When I’d leave she’d give me food. 

She’d hug me and she’d smile.

When she smiled her eyes grew in size,

big crystal eyes. Eager and full

of perseverance and hope. 

The last time I saw her was the afternoon I interviewed her for a project.

She told me: