I made a journey from Boston to St. Petersburg
to visit my forebears at a Jewish graveyard.
On the way we stopped at a little bake shop
with tired women selling day-old bread.
My father and I entered a rickety gate
in front of the old synagogue.
A stooped man with a wheelbarrow asked
if we needed water to wash the graves.
Wash the graves once a year? I wondered.
To connect with ancestors I’d never met?
To speak to them, to hear their wisdom,
to keep the memory awake?
On the way back, we crossed a long grey bridge
over railroad tracks and abandoned factories.
I was thinking: would Russia be in my dreams
if my father hadn’t left forever?