Three mouths with variously projecting lips; Thomas Holloway, Johann Caspar Lavater

Reading Akhmatova’s “Requiem,”
I remember watching TV with my wife’s
step-mother, Irena, how, mystified,
she watched a news segment about
a woman who, desiring fuller lips
for a more “active lifestyle,” had fat
sliced from her rump and injected
into her lips.

            How Irena asked us
what was going on, then shook her head
when my wife translated into Lithuanian
to this woman who had been exiled
to Siberia for eight years and has often
told the story of the daisy growing
between the ties of the railroad track
and how the women in the camp gathered
around it and gazed at what seemed
to them a miracle.

            And now she shakes
her head one more time and smiles
and leaves for the kitchen where there
is always work to do, or to the garden
where she grows lettuce and tomatoes
and many other good things to eat.