Instability/The Axis

by Elizabeth Scott Tervo

“I know these hot-tempered Southern people,”
someone said, “why should
the patriotism of small countries
matter more than the patriotism of large countries?”

Because it’s not right that the darker people
live in the floodable lowlands
of famine, war, and siege
while for the white people on the high slopes
the garbage pickup never fails.
The governments shuffle, but always crown paler faces.

Stability would be the great thing
if everyone could go to bed at night
safe as apples, and have a cup of coffee
in the morning, and the troubles just enough
for one day.

I thought, I can deal with anything
if I can have a quiet cup of coffee in the morning
bitter and almost burnt, with a little milk.
I thought this was a small thing to ask
until I realized that so many can’t have even that
waiting in cities for the bombs to stop
waiting under tarps for the drought to stop
and rice to be delivered.

Just in time for Lent
I knew it was time to fast from coffee
for I saw that quiet with coffee 
is not the axis the day moves around

The axis is prayer in front of the icons with a candle:
silence and yes, the boredom sometimes
in which you make room for someone
who hangs from the real axis of the world

Elizabeth Scott Tervo’s poetry has appeared in Ruminate, the Wheel, the Basilian, and other journals, and her poem “Translation of Relics” recently won a prize at Inscape Journal. Her memoir about the end of the Soviet period in Georgia,  The Sun Does Not Shine Without You (Mze ar Mzeobs Ushenod), came out in 2021from Azri Publishers in Tbilisi, Georgia, and has sold out its initial run. Elizabeth is a co-coordinator of the Doxacon Seattle Writers Group for Christianity and Speculative Literature and a reader for Rule of Faith. She is married to Father Michael Tervo, of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church in Bellingham, Washington, and they have two children.

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