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SIBERIA

Norman Jope

 At the western border,
there was no time
to inspect the obelisk
or adjust our watches -
then time-zone succeeded time-zone
as the evidence increased.

 We proceeded through the forest,
squatting in ruined dachas,
playing chess, or lying
with our faces turned to the ceiling
packed like sprats in the carriages -

as babushkas sold us dumplings,
used Rolexes and Snickers bars,
whole villages turned out
to watch the statues topple.
The evidence was crushed
but it purpled the hands like berries.

Beyond the mushroom jars,
we watched the tigers shrink
become as small as wasps
to be mocked by hunters
in their native garb,
beside a lake so blue
it whitened the cloudless sky.

We were offered too much vodka
by the slowly-moving exiles
opening scripts we could not read
as the woman behind the glass
smiled at a friend,
then closed the booth.
There was lipstick on her chin.
There was soot behind her eyes

We crammed a trolleybus
where heroes wiped their medals,
jolting northward
through the allotments
where the engineers
eked out their pensions.
In the global treasure-chests
and birchtwig saunas
we listened to redundant sutras,
watching oddballs climbing ladders
at the centre of their worlds.

And then,
we reached the shore
of a sea so blue,
it whitened a hopeless land
where the bones lay still
as aggregate on roads,
that tailed off into tracks
where the snowdrops of lost eyes
had come to rest...

So we shuffled timezones.
Sat in waiting rooms and restaurants
that were larger waiting rooms
where couples jived
he, with tar-black stubble,
she, with treacle-thick mascara,
to the sound of bands
that cracked fresh hymen.

We proceeded
to the eastern border's
heaps of lukewarm sand
where the traders flipped their pockets,
spilling the petite and delicate eggs
in which were nested jewel-encrusted,
exquisitely-crafted, handmade golden
chicken skeletons
that grinned beneath the weight
of pamyat's permafrost.