Tovli Simiryan

The Day Papa Surrendered His Passport

for Haim ben Ben-Tzion who survived Stalin’s gulags and lived to pray with a strong voice in America

i like the small letters
they chose to type our names.
they’re self sufficient,
wise, and make speech crow
with the high pitched
fervor of abandonment.

i want to decide what’s safe;
pretend stalin stored water
with an inner wisdom seldom murderous;
dislodging dirt beneath fingernails
as an act of good hygiene
the afternoon he forgot to
lock prison doors.

i want to endure, finish last,
learn new adjectives
for what grows indigenous
even in sand.
i’ll give my money to strangers
and imagine the names
of their children twenty years later.

i want to move through the world
like a holy beggar;
pack my own sandwich,
quote sounds rebbenu whispered
while swaying in prayer:
begging to give; not receive.

i want to return,
when the seeds of patience
blossom into reality;
spit-out the old language,
cause russia to swallow my accent
or pretend she’ll miss me
if I crawl through too many windows.

i want to exchange your blank stare
for a relief map;
one soviets molded from cotton bed sheets,
while sleeping late on monday mornings
instead of planning for work,
besarabian fabric and orchards.

I want to watch you hide dreams
inside poems that read slowly,
as though a light rain of words
establishes prominence,
sounding—g-d forbid—
like a damned herd of camels
lost in the desert.

Tovli Simiryan is an award-winning writer living in West Virginia with her husband, Yosif. The family came to America as refugees from the former Soviet Union (Moldova) in 1992. Ms. Simiryan’s short stories, essays and poetry have appeared in a variety of publications. She has published two books of poetry. Ruach of the Elders—Spiritual Teachings of the Silent, a collection of stories will be marketed by HDM-Publishers in 2009.

Haim ben Ben Zion “Pappa”—1908-1995

Pappa was one of many—a simple man
who believed in hard work and survival.
Most of his life was spent avoiding war.
He survived the Holocaust only to be
imprisoned in Stalin’s work camps and
gulags. He was one of the few to
return to his beloved Moldova and spent
years avoiding war and hatred. In 1992,
following Perestroika, the family left for
America where he lived in peace for
three years.

To read more about Pappa visit:

(author retains copyright)