Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

BooksNovember 24, 2023

The Friday Poem: ‘Heirloom’ by Carrie Rudzinski

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A new poem by performance poet Carrie Rudzinski.



No one knows the last names of my great-grandmothers / their own families of origin lost in the record keeping / Lillian / Julia / Gertrude / little womyn waiting for their names to be called / even if we knew their last names they would still belong to their fathers / like a dowry / a piece of land / a country they fled from. My grandmother left Ukraine with her name and a suitcase / Irene Stachiw.


My babcia was only half a memory scarred like a bomb / bodies for teeth / hatred for bones / a black and white photograph no one has ever seen / she was all the parts of a war no one wants to talk about / a girl in a 90-year-old body rambling about the dead / sometimes I think about my grandmother arriving at the mouth of Ellis Island alone / 18 years old / thin as a rail / only able to speak Ukrainian / married to a stranger.


L’viv is on fire again / they are bombing Babcia’s house again / Babcia’s people are fleeing again / my babcia fled / my babcia / girl on fire / survivor of unspeakable things.


My grandmother / skin soft clammy and blue / breaks communion / kisses me / she says all of my friends are dead now and I wonder if life is a punishment / or an answer to the flock of prayers she must have screamed as a child / we are waiting for her to die / we want her to have peace / or to be a memory we can trim the edges of. My grandmother tells my father she does not love him / and we hold our breath until he laughs / we all know Babcia is an 11-year-old barefoot child cutting out her own tongue so it cannot be taken from her.


Tell us the story / rip us from the Earth / Ukraine rich as dirt / swallow the ash / store it in your belly / the sky is a scar / and we have not forgotten / Babcia hated Stalin more than Hitler / don’t ever forget / don’t ever forget / glory to Ukraine.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed.

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