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