Two poems by Alla Vilnyanskaya

Mother of Pearl

I was living in a room
sleeping in a bed
enclosed in barbed wire

A wire
out of which
I should have been extracted

You were the girl
my father fell in love with

My father’s father fled the Ukraine
during the Nazi occupation of Kharkiv
Leaving his wife and son

They ate potato peels
and crawled over severed limbs

You were the girl my father fell in love with
and cried for on a train
going from nowhere, to elsewhere.

(First Published in Zaum)




One day you come home you find
you don’t have a home
no house
no door

Your name is the first
Then mine
We speak of the women who have died
the month goes something like this

How will you save her? Your only child.

I eat sap from the trees.
Sap reminds me of love
And teardrops.


Statistically speaking

Men’s lives run shorter than the lives of women
But somehow that doesn’t seem like enough

You find some type of vocation, perhaps
you will no longer have time for us.

I pour my heart out
Into a cup
you say “there’s a spot”

In the new world
Women no longer give birth
The process of childbirth
Is too painful and grotesque

We all live in tree houses
And wear vines

They say all men are evil
Especially the good ones.


Alla Vilnyanskaya was born in the Ukraine and came to the U.S. with her family as a refugee. Her work has previously appeared in Zaum, Poetry International and Boog City. She is currently working on her first book.

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