At the Emptying of Dustbins


The snow-clearing begins
with shovels' percussion on pavements.
The Gosplans are finished,
there are spaces to be cleared;
brooms and spades uplift
the snow into new Urals.

The stations are crested with letters
begotten from the Greeks, begotten
from the Phoenicians, from Pharaoh's scribe:
Glory to the Power of the Soviets.

The Old Believers are dead or deluded
in trams and trolleybuses, on boulevards.
No cranes extend arms above tower blocks.

Iron pipes boil to a seven-month plan,
seasons separate at the front door.


Revolution revival when the bread runs out,
but bakers stock the slick font of Snickers.
A depleted family of Cromwell-shamed peasants
sulks in line for bread.
Behind the till sits Eve, coated in white,
black-eyed and beaten.
Give us something to down our Stolichnaya with.
That snow on the ground
is crumbs from the white clouds’ bakery.


This is the City of Crows,
as far from Kremlin walls
as from Black Sea beaches,
where seven-month snows
bed down to the calls
of cold birds, their repeated speeches.

This is the turn in the game,
queens gone, king on the run,
where the initiative switches,
time to retrain and rename,
make moves to the summer sun,
redivide an empire’s riches.


The tanks head back to barracks,
crews glum in summer uniforms,
the addicts of the numb tripping on full tumblers,
screaming in Afghan valleys.
Strategists of the sixty-four squares,
experts on seventies rock and blues,
jokes from Lenin to Brezhnev
and the evermore dissolving cause.
This is the unforeseen end of the definitive.


Mikhail the Domestically Detested
and George the Unfortunate Progenitor
have thawed in Iceland. Yugoslavia is at war.

Someone is strumming unplugged,
the sounds reeling down a stairwell.

Where's the melancholy, alcoholic nose
of Belkin, with his squirrelish name
and ear for slang and news?

Sudden twenty-degree sunshine
and still they wear scarves and fur hats.
The Winter has slushed out,
the streets still doubting Spring.