A bag full of wishes, quite scattered
and flattened, like pennies all strewn on
the railway tracks, angry as copper
flint while a wet glove sweeps off my hat.
Soaked raincoat soon flung off to join it —
the memories shaken out stoutly —
rid of scent, excess worry and hung
on both hooks above both bunks, ready.
So only the long green scarf stays — swathed,
slumped, trembling… moist shoulders against a
chill midnight… suddenly sodden blithe
spirits appearing at windowpanes.
St. Petersburg, Russia
May 17, 2000
Budem kak solntse!
“Let us be like the sun!”
Let us be like the sun—
slice open pineapples,
catch their yellow nectar
drop by drop as they spin
like stern water wheels in
the white village. Begin
pure labor and welcome
the wooden turn of wheels,
apple presses wrung by white
hands under the white sun,
until the pineapple
has become a dry and
wooden orb by the door.
No explosion now of
nectar here from yonder.
So take down the bitter
Fruit; pull the pin; fling it far.
“Death puts an end to your distress.
Read, traveler, what evil fate…”
cut in stone by Arent Passer, 1602
A wax board inscribed with a stylus
flaps against history’s stone tablet,
sticky and blind with age, poverty’s
almost illegible, yellow fate.
Monks collect tithes for redemption seals,
beating books, reading black numbers to
ignorant boys whose apprentice weals
rise like the baker’s twice-measured dough.
Masters, the members of guilds, raise pint
tankards to barrels, sacks, tombstones, chests,
lower their scepters like proclaimed saints
on fetid almshouses, clot-black death.
Weathervanes spin… here, windward axes,
there, wind way fortifications. Clocks
are wound as regular as taxes.
Wounds are staunched with tears and tattered flags.
Leeches the blood of the journeyman
into the crude, carved wax—wet, scarlet—
“Beware of crusaders, Samaritans!
Read this; take heed of my dire couplet:
Flee in haste; stay gone long.
Return when they are gone.”
April 9, 2002
My sore feet have stepped these stones before—
but sprightly—as though on the lettuce leaves
of salad days which paved our strolls here,
hand in hand, you once wrote, and not more ro-
mantic than our would-be-walks in Paris.
Maybe, though Neva white nights were cer-
tainly more innocent than ribald,
drunken lurching on the Seine, post-disco,
pre-lust, barefoot from too-high heels and wild
mating rituals. On this Field of Mars
the north wind blows lilac kisses through
my hair, now unsecured as then, when you
picked me a branch, ensuring babushka-
wrath, surefire censure of a crime a-
gainst the state and way, way too much leg.
A dormant order gusts up little
duststorms; sandy stirrings of chaste past
whip up the lone-swept bride’s dress, nettle
the photographer who’s been licked by
the eternal flame. Neglected place
with only carved stone to bear witness
to the fallen heroes of the pro-
letariate. If memory serves, broken
bottles, cigarette butts and their bearers
were forbidden by the old, forgotten
guard. My God, from where that sad, ragged
brass band? “The Road Is Long?” (“Those Were the Days?”)
No more insanity. Look, Peter’s
Summer Gardens, western rationale.
Long alleys peopled with stone allegor-
ies. At the end a pond, castle.
Didn’t there used to be swans here, Pierre?
June 20, 2000
St. Petersburg, Russia
The pterodactyl has been thawed.
Gingerly, unfurled wings are spread
while it draws a shade with its claws,
stealthily casting cold and doubt
over terra firma. Would there
had been an unearthly shriek, cries
of rebirth to arouse the deer,
warning that dark was near, that ice
was instantly on the move, rak-
ing roads for scurrying mice to
follow—dropping young and old, ach-
ing, along the frozen furrow.
Conveniently dying along
the blind, frozen furrow. Talons
pluck, plough them under with deft, strong
strokes. It grins, glides back to salons
where similar cryogenic
wonders lick their fingers, peel sins,
preaching, preening, photogenic
at the screening of great bird’s win.