Traveler from Beyond the Volga

Traveler from Beyond the Volga

My daughter removes four cheese and bean filled tacos from the oven
and smiles at me with black Tartar eyes, gift of
some  unknown ancestor from the Eurasian steppes.
Nothing is wasted; characteristics, unexpected guests,
turn up generations after the traveler from beyond the Volga
stopped in the town on the Baltic cliff
and, by coercion or pretty words, had his way with my relation.
And by chance changed the course of history.
He wanted to stop at the village three leagues down the road,
but the wind picked up, grit stinging his eyes and matting his horse’s braided mane.
He’d rest here. An almost inconsequential change of plans.
What did it matter? Just travel twice as far tomorrow.
Except the girl in this town was related to me.
She had reached the crossroads and could either walk home across the field
or follow the cow path. She’d take the path. Why not?
The sun was stronger heading west though the field route shorter.
She made her choice, this instead of that, path instead of field,
a moment’s thought.
If she had crossed the field, she’d hear locusts and mice and earthworms
determined, unyielding,
wildcrafting a different story.

Karen Mandel

I have taught literature and writing at the high school and college levels and at community senior centers. I've been published in various journals, including Panoply, Fulcrum Annual, NILVX, Chiron Review. My short story Goddess of Mercy is forthcoming from Notre Dame Review. I've written the novels Tumbling Down, Repairs and Alterations, Clicking, Captured.


  1. very well written but could have been another travelogue poem, thanks for not going in that direction

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