A Faithful Heart

A homegrown elf?

Yes, a homegrown, real-life elf with a tiny hat and a beard, an elf who talked and ate and, I assumed, pooped too.

This story happened a long time ago in my native Romania, when I was no older than fourth grade. It happened soon after a dusty patch in our schoolyard got covered in gravel. Rocks of all shapes, all colors, all textures, all sizes. One morning, a girl in my class had exciting news for the rest of us. (I don’t remember which girl, so I’ll use the name Dana so no one feels singled out.) That morning, Dana revealed to us that our school’s gravel patch was not full of rocks but of elf-eggs. Continue reading

Our Borders: A Time for Love (1986)

Some nights, my father got up before two, sneaked out of our apartment and headed west, across the green nursery, along the water pipeline crossing Lake Cătuşa, and got there around three, when he was least expected. Some nights, my mother woke up when he slipped back into bed, but she didn’t ask him questions. She went back to sleep, until five or so, when she had to wake up, make coffee, and iron a clean shirt for her husband. Continue reading

Dancing in Odessa (1941)

Dancing in Odessa

Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004)

“They crumpled and fell into the sea,” my grandfather once told my mother.


They didn’t have faces until 2006, when I heard Jewish-Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminsky read from his award-winning book Dancing in Odessa, at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference.

“my family, the people of Odessa,

women with huge breasts, old men naive and childlike” – In Praise of Laughter

(from Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky)

Continue reading