Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Mother and Son

Mother and Son
After the arrest,
not a word is said of her,
and he is sent away
to an orphanage
from which
he eventually escapes,
a stowaway on a steamer
that brings him back,
lice-infested in tattered clothes
with a rash that makes the skin crawl.

After his return,
he’s told she’s away on business,
and he is sent back
until another escape
finds him living in the ventilation shaft
of a railroad station
outside of which he begs and steals.

After being caught,
the orphanage where he returns
has lost all patience
and sends him to a military school
where they discover
a problem with his heart,
and he is forced instead to work
in a factory breathing in toxic fumes
and eating wallpaper paste to stave off hunger
until he flees at night
across the Gulf of Finland.

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6 thoughts on “Mother and Son

  1. Why the Gulf of Finland? Because the sea had frozen over? I used to live there, and it does.


    • Wherever he was fleeing to, meant he had to cross it. The poem is based on what I read in the Khrushchev book you wrote about. It concerns the son of Leonid Khruschev’s wife, Liuba, after she was turned in.

      Interesting! Where? For how long?


      • I’m pleased it inspired you. I taught English in Helsinki from 1996 to 1998. My first job, would you believe!


      • Really enjoying it – about a third of the way in.

        Sounds great. I know next to nothing about Finland and the little I do know is probably all wrong, shaped by the Helsinki segment of Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth. How did you like it?


      • It was a real adventure. -25c on xmas day I remember. In November, it was as dark at 11 in the morning as 11 o’clock at night.
        Do you know the Kalevala, the book of the Finnish legends? It’s very good!


      • Sounds like it!

        I’ve only heard of the Kalevala not read it but will put it down on books to get. Thanks.


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