Poem of the Week

The Nouns Unknown (Vocalise)

Genya Turovskaya

The nouns unknown
to us

or unrecognizable

as our own

the quake’s shock       aftershock

            my noun-less noon
            my noon-less noun

and shadows spool
into a reticence
of an inhibited
nun-habit blue

My young mother walks
through the blue
                   of a potato field

on the collective farm
Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise
is broadcast from the loudspeakers
perched atop their posts
—where storks also make
their nests—
and fills the field
with its wordless hymn
fills my young mother
fills me
though I don’t
will never exist in that broad blue field
                              though I feel
                              as though I must
                              remember it

My father
in wartime
a hungry boy
among other
hungry boys
ate carrion
an old man now
he chokes
on a sob
as he almost
says it
is my word
is too beautiful
a word
for what
my father can’t
or couldn’t

Army of one
of no one
of no
you are just
one atomic noun
an unknown
on the fallen
            and brittle
in this grove
this yar
at the altar
             of the sky
and mutable
where black birds
flutter in the air
like ash

Return to me
              or return me
to myself

I’ve been away
too long

I have used the word knock
against the word door
I have worked
the word key
into the word lock
and turned it

Someone has changed
the locks        or the words
for things
        have changed

For the most
ordinary things

Genya Turovskaya is a writer and translator from Kyiv, Ukraine, who grew up in New York City. She is the author of The Breathing Body of This Thought, the recipient of a Whiting Award, and a practicing psychotherapist.
Originally published:
March 23, 2022


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