Christos Voskrese!

(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