Matryoshka in Odessa

By DIANE THIEL 

When I started out, it was mostly about the adventure, 
following Ivan and the firebird, heading into history
across the Black Sea, climbing the Odessa steps
through the resistance, then the suppression
which fed yet another resistance, following 
Pushkin through the tangle of fairy tales 

and into the catacombs, thinking I knew 
something about where I was headed,
the mind that kind of puzzle box.
Inside any story is always a new 
layer waiting to be uncovered.

Once we open it, we find another inside.
As a child, I called them nesting dolls.
Sometimes they could all disappear 
one into another, like secrets, 

but they could also be opened, one 
by one, until I would get to
the story at the center, 

a seed so small it was 
easy to lose, the one 

that started it all.

 

Diane Thiel’twelfth book, Questions from Outer Space, appeared from Red Hen Press in 2022. Her work is anthologized widely, most recently in Best American Poetry 2023. A Regents’ Professor at UNM, she has received PEN, NEA, and Fulbright Awards. She has traveled the world with her young family. Visit DianeThiel.net.

[Purchase Issue 25 here.]

Matryoshka in Odessa

Related Posts

Cover of Happy Stories, Mostly

Welcome to the Department of Unanswered Prayers

NORMAN ERIKSON PASARIBU
Welcome to the Department of Unanswered Prayers! Here’s your ID. When it’s time to go home, put your badge in your bag and leave the bag in your car. Rather than tossing it in some drawer, I mean, or chucking it somewhere inside your room. Don’t worry. No one will steal it.

an image of a woman among old artifacts. the woman's back is to the photographer and she is facing the open door

Slaughterhouse-Vibe

LISA ROSENBERG
There are no streetlights between the old slaughterhouse and the edge of town. The road that links them feels longer than its few hundred barren meters, proceeding above a rocky slope that ends in channel water—the former landing place of blood and entrails, arriving by chute while dogfish gathered.

Cover of Mona Kareem's I Will Not Fold These Maps, orange cover with white writing.

Review of “I Will Not Fold These Maps”

SUMMER FARAH
My first encounter with Mona Kareem’s work was not her poetry, but her essay in Poetry Birmingham on the trend of Western poets “translating” from languages they are not literate in. Kareem brings attention to what she calls the “colonial phenomenon of rendition as translation,” in which a poet effectively workshops a rough translation done by a native speaker or someone who is otherwise literate in the original language. Often, this is the only way acclaimed writers reach Western audiences.