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    blurry image of a parent holding their childs hand

    Fingered Forgiveness

    By Laura R. Eckman

    June 4, 2024

    This poem was a finalist for Plough’s 2024 Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award.

    Once your mother, always your mother
    Sine moj, I want to swaddle you
    in the hand shorn slippers of my youth.
    All that I have to give, to be
    in tattered, sun-kissed pockets
    crammed with sugar cubes
    not soaked by a sour separation.

    From wind tipped grasses of a hill country
    teeming with pickled cabbage and drooping plums
    to slouching shadows in towering high-rises
    exhausted from the daily pursuit
    of circling roundabouts without an exit,
    I have come and find myself lost

    in between the lj, đ, č, š, and ž.
    The shadow of my former self swarms
    about the vast void seeking these sounds
    with their tongue twisting form.
    A child of wobbly words in your world
    I have become. Its forgetfulness in you
    I refuse iz inata to mourn.

    In a cellar hidden from falling grenades
    I found myself. Barred from flicking my lucky marble,
    sea green nicked by tick of the clock,
    I giggled at moja Dalida and picked up another
    to play. “Clink!” One after the other they rolled
    in the candlelit dust. She stomped off forever
    forging her own roša into the crumbling cement floor.

    The mother of your mother
    Her voice, in the tunnels where my thoughts wade
    through muddled memories, faintly still waxes and wanes:

    Pogledaj im kroz prste, sine moj.


    sine moj: Literally “my son,” but in Balkan culture it can also imply “my daughter.”

    lj, đ, č, š, and ž: letters of the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian alphabet, the lj is like the “lli” in million, the đ is the ‘’j’’ in jump, ž sounds like ‘’s’’ in the word “measure.”

    iz inata: out of spite

    moja: “my”; when used with a first name, it can speak of a close female friend.

    roša: a hole found or created for the Balkan version of marbles

    Pogledaj im kroz prste: an idiom which literally means, “Look at others through the gaps of your fingers.” Figuratively, it means to overlook another’s mistakes.

    blurry image of a parent holding their childs hand

    Photograph by Yalim Vural. Used by permission.

    Contributed By LauraEckman Laura R. Eckman

    Laura R. Eckman is a poet who lives and works in Eastern Europe.

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