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Zoryana, Studying in Kyiv (circa 1032)

Ksenia Rychtycka

In the mornings I long
for the soft touch
of my mother’s hand
stroking my forehead
like the caress of strings
the Greek musician plays
on his husli near the end
of lessons each day.

Yes, I wanted to learn.
And who wouldn’t want
to see the grand
golden capital?

Markets in the city center,
silk merchants, earrings
and necklaces from Constantinople --
enough to make a girl swoon.
And even I am not immune
to temptation.

The village elders said
I was the smart one,
selected me for the new
girls’ school and little could I resist –
flattered and full of joy
even when I heard my mother cry.

Now I’m the one weeping
at night, curled to the very edge.
The other girls sigh or murmur
incoherently, one hums a soft melody…

Don’t even think of going back.