selling baby hats for bread

since the mid-1970s i have been a closet Slav, learning about Russia through human rights and travel books, mainly. in 2008 i got the opportunity to visit that huge troubled country. on my last day there i stumbled on a ‘babushka’ selling gaudy coloured, acrylic knitted hats.


  • Battered boots once saw better days,
    drab coat covered peasant pinafore;
    unobtrusively the babushka stood
    on a quiet St. Petersburg street,
    selling baby hats for bread.

    Crushed by communism,
    pauperised by perestroika,
    now capitalist conscripted;
    no plaintive, pleading pitch,
    no crude, Cyrillic cardboard sign;
    no hopeful smile, no Soviet scowl
    – hopeful that her hats would sell.

    O, babushka, painfully absent now
    – where are you, where are you?
    O sombre Slavic, minor-chord choir,
    descant melodies salve this sadness.
    O weeping widow, pitifully prostrate
    before the altar of the Everylasting.
    Are you succoured by the Saviour’s touch?
    Did he open heaven’s windows for you?**



    **….I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great that you won’t have enough room to take it in. Try it! Let me prove it to you! – Malachi 3: 10


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