My childhood guess about why prayers weren’t answered was that God didn’t speak Polish. So what did it matter if we politely called him Mr. God in a language he didn’t understand. The gods who knew Polish were hiding in the woods like the partisans. I wondered how they survived the winter. Sometimes you could hear them singing drinking songs.
VAN GOGH’S BOOTS
After grandmother died, my parents took her crucifix off the wall and replaced it with reproductions of Van Gogh. I grew up staring at Vincent’s buckling old boots, the yellow of his chair gaudy with grief.
Almost from the start I understood: Jesus in a crown of thorns and Van Gogh’s boots, it was the same thing.
Oriana Ivy was born in Poland and came to the United States when she was 17. Her poems, essays, book reviews, and translations from modern Polish poetry have been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry 1992, Nimrod, New Letters, The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Black Warrior, Wisconsin Review, Prairie Schooner, Spoon River Review, Southern Poetry Review, and many other journals and anthologies. A former journalist and community college instructor, she teaches poetry workshops. She lives in San Diego.