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Benediction for Slovakia

Numbers 6:24–26

Bless Jozef Ruman and the house his sons
moved home to build with him, the mother dead
ten years, and bless the sweating cups of ice
and young white wine the three men palm together,
silent, the floorboards settling beneath them.

Bless Villam Ondrla who, half-drunk, shovels
snow and watches families traipse sure-footed
down the lanes he cleared. Lord, bless the sons
he never had, the wife he’ll never lose,
his bare apartment. Bless them, Father, keep them.

Bless the Roma children dotting sidewalks
everywhere, all coatless, laughing, flinging
rocks at gutted, crumbling tenements
circling the train yard. Bless their idle hands.
Father, turn your face to shine upon them.

Bless all the men who’ve seen more flags than most
men ever see unfurled above their streets—
and bless the fading Hapsburg-era glamour
of flaking gold foil, plaster cracked and soot stained,
the spired cathedrals empty, wreathed in lichen.

Lord, Bless the towering blocks of pre-fab flats—
their fuchsias, ochres, pastel blues, and yellows
where the Communist grays and whites had been—
and bless the singer on the street proclaiming
“Slováci ožijú”—the Slovaks will revive.

Posted 04/06/12
"Benediction for Slovakia" was originally published in Revolution House, vol. 2, no. 1.
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