My free verse for Pedestal for a Shoe (decaled onto the roof of the sculpture):


I.    So

       What is lost

       when you

       flee terror


       when you decide

       to become

       a refugee


       on the kindness of strangers


       The obvious

       My mother’s family lost

       our home, built by my grandfather,

       where the second floor was to be bedrooms

       for my mother and her sisters

       We lost

       our farm and farming life, our deep woods

       that surrounded.  Our land.

       We lost

       short summer nights and short winter days….


      But also

      You lose

      people.  Inclusion.

      Knowing who is who and what is what.

      Ways of doing and ways of speaking.

      Knowing when a joke is a joke

      and when it is not.

      Knowing where things are, in case you need to go there

      or not go there.


      You lose knowing

      not only What game is being played

      but also what are the Rules of the Game

      and when and how you can break those rules

      and still be okay.


     When you flee

     it is with what you can take on your back.

     No Dolls.

     You bring your language, your customs

     but soon discover

     these label you an interloper.

     You try to pass, integrate

     But still, without the who’s who and what’s what

     you become an easy mark.



     part of your heart never stops

    wanting to go home

    even in these amazing United States of America.

    And your children become the tangled roots

    that you put down in spite of yourself


II.      In Latvia, my grandfather learned from a friend that he was “on the list” to be deported to Siberia so that his farm could be claimed for “collective” use.  Thus he made the decision to leave, for what turned out to be forever.

          This shoe was to go on that horrible journey into an unknown future, but was dropped by someone/my mother (then a child of 7) in the haste of fleeing.  It then sat in the sawdust of the unfinished second floor of my family’s house for 70 years.  Seventy years until my mother’s family could get out of displaced persons’ camps in Germany, work off their passage to the U.S. on a Colorado sugar beet farm ($1.00 for 1 ton of beets, child labor included), migrate to Minnesota where my mother eventually met my father and had me.  Seventy years until the Soviet Union fell, and the Russian occupiers of our house passed away, and I could freely travel to Latvia with my daughter to see our now-dilapidated house inhabited by a Latvian squatter.

         …I noted in The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia that most of the exhibits were enlarged photos and news clippings.  There were few objects because few objects survived the Stalinists’ and Nazis’ destruction.  This shoe would have disappeared too, had it not lost its mate. 


III.      I wish I could say, “That was then, and this is now.”

            “That was World War II, and this is 2016.” 

            I wish I could say, “We all learned the right things from the horror that was World War II.”

            But I can’t.