Sunday, December 31, 2017


Enveloped by your absence
who had been in rhythm with
you as with my beating heart.
How could it have escaped my
notice reason for your silence,
those months when I left for
France? It had been in plain
sight had I been willing to see.
Or perhaps I needed to obscure
that which heart could not endure?

I rode to forest of St. Germain
to read your letter in private.
In it for the first time heard you
mention intent to divorce.
I was moved, never dared
to hope for it. Continued to write
but without response...
At a loss to account for your
silence I fled to wait in Paris.
About this I already wrote a poem.

Have you not observed that
thus far she remains nameless
who had been between us?
Better it so be, for the dead
are defenseless in their silence.

                                   Antonia Baranov   


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Dorothy's Tale

 Some memories we carry are not our own
you may think this so obvious it bears no mention?
But her memories seeped into me so deeply
that I can hardly distinguish them from my own.
And yet there wasn’t anything particularly
striking about the woman.
 On foggy mornings like these as I sat in a cafe
I listened abstractly as she chattered on,
 about her life, travels. It surprised me she was a doctor.
For her time it must have been rare.
She was I believe closer to seventy than sixty.
She offered that she was born in Amarillo, Texas,
 though by then she had lost her drawl but not,
 I must say, her manners.
I think her name was Dorothy but could not swear to it.
It did happen forty years or more ago. Or she could have
reminded me of the heroine of the Wizard of Oz.
These are the tricks that memory plays on us.

It amused me to imagine her as a flapper!
She was girlish for her age and gave impression she had not wed,
as her body had a wooden quality such as one not rent by childbirth?
 With each morning coffee her life came into sharper focus.
 You may well ask why I did not more directly ask her about
 her first love, her first heartbreak? I may have been distracted
or I was not then, in the habit of asking questions.

  After school, one bleak Texas afternoon
 she told me she found her house emptied
 of people and possesions
 except for a mattress on bare floor
and her saddle askew against the parlor door.
 A letter pinned had instruction but no explanation,
to sell her saddle if she could or pawn in next town
 and some bills for fare to rejoin family South.

She realized her Father had sold her horse,
and ran through the fields until she saw him,
 stand alone on the other side of fence,
looking out at meadows that had been his home.
She called out his name and softly whistled .
She stroked his forehead and soft muzzle.
They leaned against each other a long while, until dark. 

 She told me her last act had been to sweep the floors
 and wash windows, placed a jar of marigolds on window sill,
 as a small token of pride for the life she had lived.

In the morning she lugged her saddle across the fields
to the train station and bought a ticket North.
She never returned to Texas or rode a horse again…
All these years I have held these memories
for her and felt them seared in my flesh.
It seemed that she had need of a stranger’s ear,
to let go of them and to hold them close.

Antonia Baranov

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Before The Revolution

Before the Revolution innocence was possible

Maidens wore their hair in braids or in private, loose.

Pinafores over their dresses, parasol with satin ribbons.

They laced up their bodice tightly to have a waist

small enough that a man could circle with his hands and

 busts were lifted so teacups could be poised on them

 even forget at times that it was there…

We had picnics on the manicured lawns with rustic baskets

 full of wild flowers, embossed napkins in silver rings,

The servants were requisitioned to play along in powdered wigs

and reverse roles with us, as shepherdesses and swains.

It strained pretence that we were in the midst of a bucolic scene.

There was time for time.  For reverie or thought

but even in its core it had a quality of a different order.

It could be stretched to encompass grandiose or small tasks,

 To write short love missives or lengthy treatises.

Time for the tedium of interminable Sunday visits, rites.

The endless arguments about the existence of God

The merits of emancipating the serfs or not.

There was time for sitting around the samovar,

Warmed through the glass by setting sun.

And even time in the long Winter nights

In front of the fireplace to separate one by one,

quill from feather as proper girls were wont to do

to do filling their wedding quilts.

Only to discover eighty years later in the attic gloom

amidst clouds of feathers and wild laughter

that babushka had not been such a good girl after all,

Before the Revolution innocence was possible.

We sat around sipping tea with Great-Aunt Agafyevna

And begged her to retell her meeting Vladimir Illich

in Lake Como in the Summer before the Finland Station.

Only to hear her say that he had terrible table manners,

 and did not know how to properly crook his little finger

 around a dainty cup. She smirked at his class so openly

that she made us cringe with shame. Later though,

we laughed ourselves silly at her pretentiousness and

did not dare to voice our doubts about choices we had made.

Before the Revolution innocence was possible.

You sat with us for afternoon tea and blinis and with such ease

discoursed on disparities in Nietzsche’s and Kierkegaard’s thought

 and other such lofty matters.

That I, despite stating I prized intellect above manners

paused and asked myself if we were a good match after all?

I wondered how the cool civility between us could be bridged

since you gave the appearance of courting me to all…

Then came the chaos before the Terror that disrupted our lives.

There was a great movement of men and horses, fires and floods.

Displaced people fled in confusion in trains and ships.

The Reds were upon us, the Whites cavalry still some distance away.

No time now for tea, curtsies or click of heels or departing bows,

No time for the formality of manners or even ease.

I saw you stand with horse in hand endlessly polishing

your saddle and weeping for the loss of a way of life,

while waiting for orders to rejoin your regimen.

 I knew then that the Revolution that had taken everything away

had given me this, a possibility to break away from my mold.

I sought you out to breech our distance now,

felt you soften and harden by turns in my embrace.

And as we bared ourselves to each, Russia was laid asunder.

You and I turned our faces West but for our dreams.

      Antonia Baranov

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Sister, Myself

                               No one came to her funeral,

                               in the inimitable logic of the family

                               it was held in Puerto Ordaz

                               where no one knew her.

                               In the Tropics burials are not delayed,      
                               and there  were  those that held that

                               the need  for haste was strange.

                              The obligatory Mass was said,

                               Her  favourite flowers , gardenias, sent.

                               Incense  was heavy  in the air if not sorrow.

                                 But this is all by way of conjecture,

                               I was not there, no one in the family

                               notified  me of her death.

                               This parallels another such event

                               When my Roma grandmother died, 

                                and her daughters  busied quarreling

                                amongst themselves  forgot

                                to inform their brother.

                                Yet within minutes of her death I was

                               called by hospital staff, for in Ciudad Bolivar

                               a town in the mouth of the Orinoco’s muddy waters,

                               I’m well known, albeit for patronage of lost causes.

                            My Sister and I, shall we say,

                            had a complicated relationship,

                            We reflected each other through

                            a warped mirror of family loyalties

                            and betrayals, more alike than not.

                            She was the being who loved me the most

                           on earth and hated me with equal ardour

                           and at times,  both at once.

                           Never could fathom the source of the intensity,

                           of either,  and for the most part did not care.

                           Her  voracity for luxuries and indolence.

                           did not abate with age.

                           Perhaps my portrayal is unfair,

                           she could be profligate in generosity

                           and charm,

                          But I have yet to grieve, yet to forgive.

                        Antonia Baranov  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Exiled Dreams

                       Anointed by your sweat,  brackish and sweet by turn

                        a mantle against  the exile of waking.

                       Weaving nightly chimeras  into shimmering tropics,

                        retracing terrain  by yearning made familiar.

                        It is thus I dream you.

                       Seeking, seeking the unnamable.

                       The tenuous mooring of memory

                       all that remains to bind us.

                        Forsworn the small  comforts  and domesticities,

                        and  forbear words for the knowing you exist
                        in that silence.

                                                                                                                                           Antonia Baranov

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


                                         You sat amicably abstracted amid all,

                                       already absent. Each still wanting a piece of you. 

                                       By habit you worked the room ambling

                                       like a walrus, unable to resist making deals

                                       that no longer mattered . For the lunches you politicked
                                       to secure my position alone, you gained three stone.

                                       I glanced at your wife in crimson dress with
                                       Sephardic hooded eyes, black like grapes.
                                       The uneasy alliance made so many years ago
                                        and kept fitfully straight still holds…

                                        In public you do not acknowledge her

                                        sitting  on a different table, back to back.                                         
                                        I said to you then about her in feigned surprise: 

                                       “It was a mature choice!”  And you reddened with pleasure?

                                        We hovered on a line that was never crossed.

                                         But I recall the day you warned me when alone

                                         as if in segue way, though nothing was previously said:

                                         "I am a man of habit not quick to change!"

                                          In private moments the enormity of

                                         of what was left unsaid echoed in my ears.
                                         No regret now but I recall that day when she accepted
                                          bread and salt from my hands. It was done.  

                                          Not clear in retrospect that I had not ensnared myself.

                                          At another occasion I looked at your workman like hands

                                          in public near enough to touch . I felt a girdle of fire   

                                         and found what had eluded me in so many beds. 

                                         The mystery and simplicity of it, marvels me still.

                                                                                                Antonia Baranov