The tanks came through the portals in the charming building where, on the second floor, behind hand painted letters on glass, was the shop where the old Jew made suits.

My great grandfather is wearing one of these suits in an oval sepia photograph taken in late autumn before the Philharmonic Hall, 1936. The winters are pitiless here — in the Carpathian Mountains, Dracula lived, remember. We have our castles, our Polytechnic University, our international airport, our Carmelite Church, but we are not fully restored somehow –

We now have only a few Jews in Lviv. The Nazi tanks, the Russian tanks. We now have not so many Poles. A French guy called Guy carves a fork from wood and Guy sits on the curb by the cobble paved alley. He says, “Ludmila, pour votre anniversaire, je vais vous tailler un cheval.”

The water is blue. The summer is cool, settled into a splendid peace, and the roof of my house is red pipe tile. But it’s not my house, it’s where there are flats, with curtains, birds, leaves, coffee, bookshelves, and where I live with my journal.

We want to move beyond the convulsions, the quakes and bombs and night trucks, the dark trains in the black wind.

The banal exquisite primitivism of the child’s drawing, that’s our starting point. Yes to the dancer, the sidewalk waiter, the book of short stories, the rain and tomorrow. Yes to a flag of any color — yes to sun yellow and to sea blue.

James Robison