The photo Echo of the wind has been chosen to accompany the poem The Pale of Settlement 1908 by the poet Valerie Bacharach.
A barely discernible photo, worn
at the edges, black and white blurring
into shades of gray.
A grouping of women, ages indeterminable.
I claim them.
Great-grandmothers, a raft of aunts.
Lines etch the corners of eyes, groove
the skin of faces, bracket stern lips.
This is where they live.
Land stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea:
Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine
Harsh sun, fierce wind, snow, snow, snow.
Their lives bound by narrowness.
A regimen of cleaning, cooking, marriage, childbirth, burials.
Yiddish rattles the air—
mishigos, ferklempt, mensch.
On Shabbat they chant Hebrew prayers
memorized, not understood.
Rarely, they sing.
Bodies wide-hipped, eyes squint in pale sun,
their shadows faded with time.
Some of their men have gone, slipping
beyond borders to search for hope
in a land they cannot imagine.
What do these women dream in the quiet of late night
when the horizon lies blanketed in darkness?
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