The Poplar Waltz

                                    Dedicated to Denny

I never gave up loving you, I buried you inside.

I close my eyes and see the ‎poplar trees and the sunlight,

The gravel of the road by the cemetery gate,

And all those black cars, single row, in a motorcade,

And all the black cars in a row in the motorcade.

I was eleven, you – fourteen, the year the war began.

Back then – I thought I was a teen, I thought you were a man.

The children’s dance at the resort. The longing for romance.

My palms got sweaty, my breath caught, when you asked me to dance,

My palms got sweaty, my heart stopped, when you asked me to dance.

Your hair seemed golden, your eyes – quartz. I’ve never danced before.

The band had played a slow waltz. We swirled across the floor. 

The sapphire waves. The orange ‎sun. The rustle of the sand…

It took two nations and a gun to make a girl’s dream end,

It took two governments, one gun, to make a girl’s dream end.

The year was 1989, before the Wall came down.

The next day, everything seemed fine, you rode your bike to town.

The first news of gunfire came in. Our peaceful world was gone.

People were running. No one seemed to know what’s going on.

People were crying. No one seemed to know what’s going on.

I can’t forget the terror in your parents’ eyes that day,

Or how your sister’s hair turned from black to ashen gray.

They brought you on a stretcher, and the sheet was stained in red.

I blankly stared, with the waltz still playing in my head.

I stared, and the stupid waltz kept playing in my head.

Denny! – you are a part of all I am; both love and hate.

I should’ve saved you from that brawl between two bickering states.

The Soviet Union would collapse and the free world would win.

That victory was bought by us: one boy’s life, one girl’s dream.

The price for that was paid by us: one boy’s life, one girl’s dream.

Somewhere in a war-torn, small land by a vacant sea,

Still stands the wreckage of the hall where you had danced with me,

The cemetery, and your grave, to which I cannot get.

Only the poplar trees are waltzing there at sunset.

I know the poplar trees are waltzing there at sunset.

Julie Deshtor 2017

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The fear had pecked a hole inside…

The fear had pecked a hole inside
With its long pointed beak.
My fists went limp – I couldn’t fight.
My mouth wouldn’t speak.
I saw a threat beneath each tree,
Behind each closed door.
I chained my will and tossed the key,‎
Then I padlocked my soul.‎
It’s not for me that I had feared –
I’ve seen it all before.‎
I‎ts just that those I held dear
Became pawns in this war.
I censored every step and look,
I questioned every smile,
I fled my castle, burned my book,
I went dead for a while.
And I had tried, I truly tried
To learn to lie and hate.‎
I failed at both. I’ve gotten tired
Of always being afraid. ‎
I still have friends, I still have strength,
And truths worth fighting for.
I cannot let this happenstance
Consume me to the core.
I’ve played the fear game and found
That I am not impressed.
It’s time to ‎get up, don my crown,
And do what queens do best.
Copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2015‎
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Lot’s Wife

I have been turned into a pillar of salt.
The sky is coming down.
It’s raining ambers. All around
Are falling shards of our shattered world.

Our city, our city burns.
Our palisades succumb to hungry fires.
Bodies light up and fade, like fireflies.
The streets glow crimson, paved with molten stones.

Our garden and the house where we lived,
The little church where we had stood before the altar,
Beyond my grasp.
A statue carved of grief,
I am inanimate, I cannot alter
The judgment that’s been passed
On everything we’ve spent a lifetime building,
Too horrified to not turn back and cast
One final glance at our doomed city.

Defiant, disobedient, I forgot
The Angel’s warning.  ‎
I refuse to go.
So full of love, I’d rather turn to salt.
And there’s no species of God
That could command or force me to abandon
This city built with our sweat and soul.

Copyright 2015 @ Julie Deshtor

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‎Я мечусь, как зверь за решеткой

‎Я мечусь, как зверь за решеткой,
‎бьюсь об прутья, пугая толпу.
Ярость жидким металлом в глотке: 
“Отпустите, я так не могу!”

‎Этот век, этот мир – все чужое.
Всe равно я порву эту цепь, 
легендарной свистящей стрелою 
устремлюсь я в далекую степь.

Оставляю вам ваши знания, 
технологии и прогресс. 
Здесь усыпан простор цветами, 
здесь курганы хранят молчание 
под лазурным шатром небес.

‎Здесь монголы и скифы дремлят,
здесь полынь на крови взросла, 
здесь ласкает могилы тень от 
пролетающего орла.

‎Здесь пронизана тьма ночная 
конским ржаньем и пением птиц. 
Здесь могучий поток Дуная 
Рим от варваров отделяет, 
словно призрак былых границ.

‎Ветер здесь заглушает стоны, 
дробь копыт, эхо битв лихих. 
‎Здесь‎ ‎веков пласты – в чернозёме, 
в азиатских чертах‎ моих.

Отпустите меня на волю 
‎здесь, в степи. Дайте мне коня 
без седла (никчему седло мне), 
и оставьте в покое меня.

Copyright 2015 @ Julie Deshtor

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My leaves are green, although my trunk has splintered,
And my old bark is blackened and decayed.
I live alone, surrounded by buildings.
I just stand here in the wind, and sway.

The sky is not as blue as I remember.
When snow comes, it never seems to last.
The winds are not as bitter in November,
The soil – not as sweet as in the past.

When I first sprouted here with my brothers,
My crown barely peaked above the grass.
Large mammoths herds were grazing the horizons.
We were afraid that they would trample us.

I have seen giant sloths and giant bears
As a small sapling reaching for the sun,
But they’ve been gone for thousands of years.
Sometimes I wonder – where have they gone?

Then humans came, with their stone-tipped arrows.
We laughed at them – the ugly, naked beasts.
I realize that we should’ve been scared,
But back then we weren’t scared in the least

For we were young, and racing for the clouds.
We’ve grown too big, we thought, for them to hurt.
There were so many of us, and we were so proud,
And we knew so little of the world.

Mankind brought death to us death by axe and fire,
And thus the slow holocaust began:
Each year, as I grew a little higher,
My brothers fell around me, one by one.

Yet still I grew – us trees are meant to grow.
Nobody asks us when, or where, or how.
I stored up black hatred in my soul
As I fed on the shit from their cows

Until I was the last one left, the highest
Point on the land, and now it was my turn
To make them pay. They burned us down with fire;
I, too, would use the fire and make them burn!

One summer night, as lightening was dancing
From cloud to cloud, and the grass was dry,
I reached into the heavens with my branches
And snatched the lightening out of the sky.

But it had turned on me and scorched my crown;
My very core splintered from the blow,
And as the burning bits of me rained down,
I wondered – how did I get so low?

I meant to kill! I wanted to destroy –
But I was just a tree, how could I win?
In agony, I cursed the very soil
From which I grew, as flames gnawed on my limbs.

I fell apart, defeated and decrepit,
Engulfed in unimaginable pain.
That’s when the humans hurried to my aid;
Those very humans came to fight the flames!

Oh, I was helpless, I was ripe for slaughter,
But they saved me. Compassionate and kind
They soothed my burning stumps with cooling water,
And so that day I made peace with mankind.

I gained a new insight from my ordeal,
An understanding hit me, as I fell:
I realized how small mankind must feel
When my own folly brought me to their level.

I saw that some of them weren’t like the others.
And who was I to choose which ones should live?
Besides, their death would not bring back my brothers,
I doubt it would even ease my grief.

The fire broke my trunk, but healed my spirit.
I wouldn’t die, I hung on by the roots.
The following spring first tender leaves appeared
As I reached for sky with brand new shoots.

The humans cheered at my resurrection;
They were amazed I managed to survive.
I will admit, I basked in their affection –
I was so grateful just to be alive!

A truce was reached: they took away the cows:
A little victory gained from my defeat.
They built a park around me, and now
They bring their offspring to play at my feet.

As their generations come and go,
I watch their city gradually expand.
If humans are like trees and need to grow –
They’ve earned the right to grow on my land.

Copyright 2014 @ Julie Deshtor

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Shark Attack

If you are into swimming, you should know
That a great white attacked a man offshore.
He dove in from his boat, and to his horror
There was a great white waiting down below.

But our diver did not show fear.
He told the shark: “You are not welcome here.”
And just so that his point would be clear,
He poked its snout with his fishing spear.

He backed against a reef and stood his ground,
Though that shark must’ve weighed a thousand pounds,
And every time it tried to come around,
He poked and poked and poked it in the snout.

The shark, he thought, mistook him for a seal.
He almost became that monster’s meal,
And only his resolve and strength of will
Had gotten him alive through that ordeal.

But there’s another angle to that story:
A shark was swimming though its territory,
When suddenly, without saying: “Sorry,”
A man fell in and scared off its query.

The shark was puzzled by the whole affair;
‎Such an occurrence was extremely rare‎
As far as it knew – humans needed air.‎
It wondered what the man was doing there.

But every time it swam up to find out
The human rudely poked it in the snout.
This human was aggressive.  No doubt
It’s best to warn the other sharks about it.

With its pride injured and it’s snout sore,
It dutifully went about its chore,
And now all the sharks around know
A human has attacked a shark offshore.

Copyright @ Julie Deshtor 2014‎

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Lost genius.  ‎(What bothers me about modernity – Part 2)

Part 2: Overcrowding
I am not going to go into the usual concerns associated with the word: the impending doom of dwindling resources; the inevitable competition between various human populations; the destruction of habitats and species; the potential for catastrophic epidemics; the wide-spread loss of reproductive drive in those modern human societies, where religious beliefs are not a major factor influencing reproductive choices.  All these issues have been studied, documented, debated, and addressed in literature, educational films, and big screen productions.
One aspect of over-population I have never seen addressed is ‎the devalument of geniuses. ‎
Awe-inspiring leaders, daring reformers, great poets, fabled military minds, legendary explorers, brilliant scientists, revered ‎prophets, extraordinary beauties, men and women or inhuman strength and endurance, saints, saviors, geniuses of all sorts and fashions – where are they today?
They still exist, no doubt. Statistically speaking, there are more of them alive now than there ever was before.  ‎If we are to estimate the population of ancient Athens at roughly 250,000, and claim that one super-human athlete per generation was born in Athens, than, estimating current world population at 7,125 billion, roughly 28,500,000 super-human athletes are alive today!
How many of those can you identify right now? How many Nobel Prize winners do you know by name? Me, personally – less than a dozen.
The modern geniuses are all around us, I am certain of it. But they are lost amidst the crowds. Diamonds are only precious if there is a shortage of them. They are worthless in an over-saturated market.  
How many Homers, Shakespeares, Jesuses, Napoleons, Aristotles, Darwins, Caesars, Elizabeths, Charlemagnes, Mozarts, Augustuses, da Vincis, Genghis Khans, Galileos, Ciceros, Teslas, Joans of Arc and Bismarcks do we pass every day on the street, never realizing that it was greatness sitting next to us at a local Starbucks?  ‎Too many.  They go unnoticed and unrecognized, indistinguishable from the multitudes.    
‎The 21st century has created an interesting paradox, where brilliance often goes by unseen, yet those people who would like nothing more than to be left alone find themselves stripped of all privacy. But that’s the subject of the next post. 

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