Sport 13 Spring 1994
Bob Orr — Pasternak’s Angel
I was the kid in the black & white family photo
I was called Snow
I lived on the steppes of an empire of Russia
I lived on the plains of Poland.
I didn’t know what snow was.
In the Waikato I knew what ice was.
Poland was a prayer
Poland was a particle.
In Poland my sister studied Chopin among pigeons.
In the Waikato my grandfather was czar.
In Russia my mother nursed Rasputin.
In Russia my father lost ten thousand of his lives.
The pond dried
the mud cracked
the bullrushes rattled
we dug up eels.
In the Russian summer
a peat fire in the Waikato.
In the Waikato winter
Russia was a frozen pipe
I was looking out of a black & white family photo.
My nickname was Snow.
Yes Boris Pasternak
when your cathedrals begged for bread
when space was a green acorn
when your soul stood like a pine tree before a wind from Mars
we stood outside one cold night
at the back of a Waikato garden.
Poland on the horizon had become a thin red line.
By the phoenix palm swaying in the wind
like a huge dark bird at roosting time
by the lawsoniana hedge thicker than a city wall
by the gate with its latch shaped like a question mark
we stood & saw your angel
a child of my father’s age
a cosmonaut who drifted toward Hamilton.
Above this earth of salt mines
a Russian peasant
his craft a speck of light
the shape of one small haystack