The Border Crossing Point A river marks the border. Narva, burned over and over. The lake separates one country from another. Narva, razed over and over. How do you measure 98% of a city destroyed—what instrument counts the missing shoes by the door, the unharvested root vegetables shellshocked in the garden? They left the river, renamed the county, removed remnants of life. A medieval fortress undone, now replicated and selective as history’s ticketed museum. Lenin in a courtyard, ten feet tall and reaching his right arm towards Russia. The lake, written in two languages, spills the final course of Suur Emajõgi, mother river, a waterway that floods marsh to valley to lowland, trailing an old rule through Narva, its river-banked castle.
What if? In the city my vanaema is from farmland stretches a hamlet. The stone windmill turns around another century’s shattered axis. In her town, my vanaema fed the piglets weaned within weeks. What if the town a village, what if the village a field. And in the field a family, seasons of barley and rye. Before the war her sister could stand on a cantering horse. North of Väike-Maarja, west of Ida-Viru, my vanaema fled her country, left her parish, her mother, Ida, a bell of my invention that calls and calls back What if we stay?
From the Author: These poems explore the tension between records, archives, and imagination in the wake of familial separations driven by war. My maternal grandparents fled the KGB during the Soviet invasion of Estonia, leaving behind their home, their language, and multiple family members. There is so much of the story I don’t know. These two poems came out of miscommunication in the retelling of their escape, imagining a world in which we could stay—remain at once—in the past and present, in Estonia and America, in lived experience and in the gaps of the unknown.
Amanda Maret Scharf is a queer poet from Los Angeles. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, The Iowa Review, Nashville Review, Narrative and elsewhere. She is the co-founder of the publishing initiative and artist collaboration, mixedgreens. Co-author of the chapbook, Metal House of Cards (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming), she holds an MFA in poetry from the Ohio State University where she served as Poetry Editor for The Journal. More at amandamaretscharf.com