Origin Stories – Virginia Smith

Origin Stories
    Ukrainian Easter Eggs
    by Virginia Smith

    There in our snug living
    room, a TV tray her craft
    center, my seventies mom 
    laughed at Carol Burnett, 

    M*A*S*H*, All in the Family, 
    her pop cult cover for pysanky
    witchery, gently pricking a hole
    with her needle at egg’s two tips, 

    blowing never-to-be chicks
    into a bowl for scrambling, 
    then focusing her gaze, 
    heating her Kiska over candle 

    flame, drawing beeswax lines,
    mixing arcadia and pagan hex signs—
    eight-point stars, arrowed branches,
    verdure munching cottontails— 

    with crucifixion, Golgotha crosses.
    These marks would be shell white, 
    pure—then dipping eggs into scarlet, 
    sapphire, the purple of resurrection,

    her folk-art palimpsests of death 
    and spring, paeans to sun gods,
    to the Son as God. Episcopal
    Sundays aside, mom sensed what

    Egyptians, Greeks, Romans
    believed: the universe emerged 
    from a mother’s egg. Let’s leave
    her here: a decade before Ukraine

    broke free from Soviet’s Union,
    30 years after Babi Yar, 50 before 
    Russia would bomb Kyiv, Mariupol,
    Kharkov, when pysanky will

    scatter streets with silt, shattered
    fine as bone.

Origin Stories – Ukrainian Easter Eggs

After my mother’s death in 2020, I sketched out and wrote a variety of poems that served to memorialize her, most of which landed in my first book, Biking Through the Stone Age, published in May 2022. This past fall, 2022, I took up other mother poems, including this one, “Ukrainian Easter Eggs.” While I originally wished to capture how much of Easter—and many of the Christian calendar holidays, in fact—came out of pagan traditions, in the process of composing I also understood the ways that the palimpsestic layering of the color and design on these gorgeous eggs that the poem renders were akin to the layering poets do with lines and themes and in merging personal and political histories. Out of this self-consciousness I also realized that, of course, I wanted to use my poem, again like the eggs’ different “coats,” to layer Ukraine’s often tragic history with other European aggressors, such as Russia and Germany, as part of the Ukrainian eggs story. This poem will be part of my third collection, Elsewhere.

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Available now!

Previous Origin Stories

April 1Wanda Praisner

April 2Howard Lieberman

April 3 L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

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Let the Poet Speak! 2022

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Origin Stories