(For Tod)
The world is unusually quiet this dawn
With fading stars withdrawing in good grace
And drowsy, dreaming sunflowers, dewy-drooped,
Their golden crowns all motionless and still,
Stand patiently in their ordered garden rows,
Almost as if they wait for lazy bees
To wake and work, and so begin the day.
A solitary swallow sweeps the sky;
An early finch proclaims his leafy seat
While Old Kashtanka limps around the yard
Snuffling the boundaries on her morning patrol.
Then wide-yawning Mikhail, happily barefoot,
A lump of bread for nibbling in one hand,
A birch switch swishing menace in the other
Appears, and whistles up his father’s cows:
“Hey!  Alina, and Antonina! Up!
Up, up, Diana and Dominika!
You, too, Varvara and Valentina!
Pashka is here, and dawn, and spring, and life!”
And they are not reluctant then to rise
From sweet and grassy beds, with udders full,
Cow-gossip-lowing to the dairy barn.
Anastasia lights the ikon lamp
And crosses herself as her mother taught.
She’ll brew the tea, the strong black wake-up tea,
And think about that naughty, handsome Yuri
Who winked at her during the Liturgy
On the holiest midnight of the year.
O pray that watchful Father did not see!
Breakfast will be merry, an echo-feast
Of last night’s eggs, pysanky, sausage, kulich.
And Mother will pack Babushka’s basket,
Because only a mother can do that right
When Father Vasily arrived last night
In a limping Lada haloed in smoke,
The men put out their cigarettes and helped
With every precious vestment, cope, and chain,
For old Saint Basil’s has not its own priest,
Not since the Czar, and Seraphim-Diveyevo
From time to time, for weddings, holy days,
Funerals, supplies the needs of the parish,
Often with Father Vasily (whose mother
Begins most conversations with “My son,
The priest.…”), much to the amusement of all.
Voices fell, temperatures fell, darkness fell
And stars hovered low over the silent fields,
Dark larches, parking lots, and tractor sheds.
Inside the lightless church the priest began
The ancient prayers of desolate emptiness
To which the faithful whispered in reply,
Unworthy mourners at the Garden tomb,
Spiraling deeper and deeper in grief
Until that Word, by Saint Mary Magdalene
Revealed, with candles, hymns, and midnight bells
Spoke light and life to poor but hopeful souls.
The world is unusually quiet this dawn;
The sun is new-lamb warm upon creation,      
For Pascha gently rests upon the earth,
This holy Russia, whose martyrs and saints
Enlighten the nations through their witness of faith,
Mercy, blessings, penance, and prayer eternal
Now rising with a resurrection hymn,
And even needful chores are liturgies:
“Christos Voskrese  – Christ is risen indeed!”
And Old Kashtanka limps around the yard
Snuffling the boundaries on her morning patrol.
By Mack Hall