It was the Year of the Earth Dog
who battled the water metal snakes,
fire wood rats, earth fire rabbits,
wood monkeys, water sheep, fire dragons.
It was the year my father finished high school,
the last year he slept in the freezing attic
where the crivat howled,
the last time to put up with Tanti Sita
who'd lock the stove and yell,
Boy, if you're cold, wear another coat!
It was the year Explorer 1 was launched
and Sputnik fell from orbit,
the year Khrushchev ascended to power,
the Red Army left Romania,
Castro took Havana,
unemployment in Detroit was 20%;
the year The King became private #53310761
and Charles, Prince of Wales;
Lolita was published,
instant noodles invented,
It was the year my father wrote
Gone are the coffee, oil, and flour,
The wheat is nowhere to be seen,
Poor, dear Romanian country,
The Soviet People set you free!
and read it to his roommate and best friend.
It was the year of the dog
when grandpa told the Communists
If you wanna take my land,
you'll have to get me first,
then ran away and lived for months
in the cornfields but was caught
when someone coughed up his hiding spot.
It was the year the secret police
ransacked the house and found the poem,
the year my grandma wished she wasn't born,
the year the men were tried by military tribunals
as enemies of the people.
The earth dog drank his mother's tears.
Death! Death! Death!
clamored the courtroom audience
of water metal snakes fire wood rats
earth fire rabbits wood monkeys water sheep.
It was the year my father turned eighteen:
a gate opened in the fire dragon's breath
and closed behind him.
It was the Year of the Earth Dog,
the year of the Hammer and Sickle,
of the Fist and Boot,
of Rope and Noose.