Skip to main content

A tale of survival: A poem from John Sherman

Anna Vasileva
by John Sherman

“We ate wallpaper glue and rancid horse meat and even scraped the spoiled milk off the bottom of the fridges in the yogurt factory…. Back then, I ate whatever I could. I even ate flowers.”

           Anna Vasileva, a Russian woman describing how she survived World War
           II, The
New York Times Magazine, February 24, 2002

bringing the fragile petals to her mouth
she is surprised the occasional lavenders
lack the taste of their color

brightly displayed against
her small rough hands are
perfect whites
glorious pinks
bursting out of 
the ends of their green stems
that she also eats
the bitterness ignored
as she stifles her own

          I always admired flowers
          finding fields of them a shock
          as I rounded the corner coming home

          while I busied myself with sums and sentences
          they had opened up
          waiting for me to gasp in surprise
          as scores of startling yellows in the early spring
          teased me as I walked by
          in dull contrast
          on my way to the luxury of soup
          and perhaps bread

faster now
she grasps bunches of them
stuffs them into her mouth
imagining them to be colorful fish

wanting them to be fleshy meaty fish

Bio: John Sherman has published three books of poetry. His poems have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. One of his poems was selected to appear on an Indianapolis Cultural Trail bus stop. Another was selected for the poet-quilter collaboration, Poetry in Free Motion. He is the recipient of a Creative Renewal Artist Fellowship and Individual Arts Program grants for his writing.

For more information about Anna Vasileva, click here.