My Poetry: “Nina”

I’ve been doing some spring cleaning at work and stumbled upon a poem I wrote in early 1996 and the painting I did of Baba Nina. I hope you enjoy it.


I arrived in Samara seeking friends on the street despite my foreign accent,
hoping for a chance to become reacquainted.

Some laughed out of ignorance— faces like Nina— crinkled and sour from old tvorog.
Green eyes snapping like dandelion blades. Her grey hair disappeared into the clouds as she pointed her small fingers towards me, eyelids closed.

We met that first Sunday, bubbly and jolly as grandma’s, yet childlike too.
I went to visit her riding the tramvai to Dirzhanskovo Street, old buildings
with decaying roofs and chipped paint calling.

Along Dirzhanskovo Street vendors sell ice cream and beer, as young men try to peddle
the latest movie from America. So loud that sound as I ride from stop to stop.

Nina lives by a construction site and each summer they work on the pipes.
Now in winter, icicles cling to our noses as we walk past remnants of unfinished work.
Mounds of dirt, tired machines and empty pipes; begging for renovation.
Be careful by the side of her old apartment building. Julie fell there once.
Katya and Oksana’s grandparents live in the same entrance way.

I look up and see Nina, almost toothless, waiting to become reacquainted.

~Rebekah Callor, 1996, Samara, Russia

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