A Thousand Kilometres from the Capital. Two Parables


[Recent poem based on two true stories of people in Russia and China which I found in a book and on the internet. The heroes of the everyday, far from all ‘politics’.]

A Thousand Kilometres from the Capital. Two Parables


In her tiny house without water
or gas, a thousand km from the capital
a woman in a Russian village
is alone with her memories.

Here winters are so bone-splitting,
bus-preventing, long, & death is not
putting in your potatoes soon enough.
It does not matter if the capital is
Red, White, nomenklatura, oligarchs,
what happens there just another movie
on her tiny TV tucked in embroidery.

Her happiest memory is the poetry
of her wedding day: the lilacs
were blooming & nightingales
singing in their branches
as they walked home from the registry.

A daughter now married & gone,
a few years of domestic content
& backbreaking labour paying
kopecks before Vadik hit the vodka
& died at forty two. Sixty,
she fears growing old, would like
someone to talk to of ‘other things’.

Now she stands before the fragrant
luminescence of an early lilac
like an icon. Then, turning, half-smiling:

‘Shall I cut you some before you go?’


Two friends in a cracked mudbrick village
in China, a thousand km from the capital
are preparing to set off for their daily
work. Jia Wenqui lost his arms in childhood,
Jia Haixia his eyes sixteen years ago.
Wenqui is Haixia’s eyes, he his hands.

As for the last thirteen years, whichever
Red Princeling ruling in Beijing, Wenqui’s
strong back will carry Haixia across the river
to the barren once riverstone and sand.

Haixia will dig a hole, drive in a stake.
Wenqui will lift a bucket from the river
with a stick hook between his teeth.
While Haixia holds the sapling, Wenqui
will upend the bucket with his foot
and tamp the soil. Asked why, they say
their ten thousand trees are green
soldiers guarding their beautiful village.

They say they are doing it for
the environment, future generations.
They say it’s hard on the purse
but they are ‘so delighted spiritually’.
They say when they are working
together they don’t feel disabled at all.

Sometimes, for a lark, Wenqui lifts
blind Haixia on his back, his head
pushing him into a close embrace
with one of their planted poplars.
They are always laughing.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on May 24, 2016.

2 Responses to “A Thousand Kilometres from the Capital. Two Parables”

  1. memories of better times…and moving beyond what we can’t control and on to what we can…?

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