For My Mother-in-Law Recently Passed
By Ann Cefola
– The Amber Room, Russian royal chamber (1701-1709) made of amber and gold leaf.
You are like the Amber Room carefully lifted from the Catherine Palace, boxed
and taken for safe-keeping by ship, torpedoed, bottom of the Baltic;
or, some say, by train, buried under the Weimar Court.
A detective follows tree-arrows to a German-Czech hill; an eyewitness claims
it never left Konigsberg—firebombed into a honeyed mass.
Diving, plowing, digging. One mosaic unearthed
keeps belief sparkling. Maybe you’re there,
your Robertiello hair, starched short sleeves, orange-illumined skirt,
enjoying kartoshka and samovar tea, in what took years
to carve, polish, piece together.
The priest who kissed your casket never imagined:
Time absent; instead, coral ambiance preserves you like a dragonfly,
in this scalloped interior the world longs for.
Oh, we think you’re underground, hands
molded around a rosary, crated like those amber walls. You never knew
Russian could pour from your mouth like piquant steam. And like the dead,
you hold yourself still, as if posing for an icon, every cell aureate, beating, intact.
More preserves, Madam? a butler asks. You smile. Pick up your spoon.
What you always knew. You sigh. Nine decades to find this, your crown. Your nation. Your room.
Ann Cefola is the author of Sugaring (Dancing Girl Press), the translation Hence this cradle (Seismicity Editions) and the forthcoming St. Agnes, Pink-Slipped (Kattywompus Press). A 2007 Witter Bynner Poetry Translation Residency recipient, she also received the 2001 Robert Penn Warren Award judged by John Ashbery.