THE DEPORTATION OF THE SOCIALLY ALIEN ELEMENT
FROM THE BALTIC REPUBLICS
In the middle of an almost ordinary night
when the household is silent except
for the soft sounds of breath
a pounding bang, shouts
and the movement of soldiers
letting it be known they had encircled the house.
The commands are brief. The decree hurried.
In less than an hour, he has packed
a single overnight bag
whispered to his wife
that this will not take long
that he would be back to her, soon,
as he was a man with some authority.
Perhaps, he wonders, if this last fact
is not known to the soldiers who herd
him into the truck and yell and ram guns
at him. When they reach the railway station
dozens of trucks disgorge passengers
to the platform, women and children
to the front, men to the back.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE FOREST BROTHERS
Branches of birch hung in their play space.
Slender trunks framed cubbies, marked territory
for Cowboy and Indian manoeuvres. The canopy
of shade added mystery to chasey and hide and seek,
secrecy for sweethearts. In winter, patches of light
romped over hunters, warmed walkers tramping
through the crunch of just fallen snow. With the lovers
the low summer sun lingered into evenings.
When the birch forests became war grounds,
everything shifted. Willowy branches allowed
so much sight. Slender trunks, too sparse for shelter,
but between them, space enough for digging deep,
and from them, long straight boards lining dugouts,
havens from shoot-outs, venues for dispensing rough
justice. Bunkers and forest camps. Fragile fortresses
of make-do weaponry and erratic food supply.
These forests have kept their silence, held secrets –
Knowledge knotted in troubled hearts, frayed
in decaying archives on rotting bunker shelves, in
unsettled minds of men walking and re-walking forests.
Unsolved village riddles. Enduring enigmas.
Dappled light, a pall of soft snow. Tendrils of birch.
In this time of unravelling, the forests are letting go
but holding safe, the bones, only the bones.
WHAT IS THE BALTIC WAY?
I listen to people recount
what it was to stand in a line
of two million people. Yes,
two million people standing
in a line from Tallinn to Vilnius
so that when word came at seven,
two million people joined hands.
Yes. That is four million hands
holding each other, yes, holding
each other and flowers and candles.
We lit candles, hundreds of candles
bright enough for Moscow to see.
And what was the sound?
We sang. We sang the song.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
wake up! Yes, the song
that had been written for this day.
We sang the songs of our countries.
Yes, the Forbidden Songs. We sang
loud enough for Moscow to hear.
And when did the line form?
We gathered at six-thirty
on the twenty-third
of August in 1989.
Fifty years on from the signing
of the Molotov-Ribbontrop pact.
But at seven, we joined hands,
all of us linked. A human chain
from Tallinn, through Riga
and down to Vilnius. We sang
and kept singing for months
till Moscow understood.
Were you there, in the line?
I ask the woman selling lace shawls
in Ha’apsalu, lace fine enough to slip
through a wedding ring.
No, I was not. Her eyes lock with mine.
On that day, she tells me,
I too was creating the future.
On that day, I gave birth to my son.