The boardwalk on the beachfront was tacky,
although that did not put me off from buying
dirt-cheap earrings with my leftover rubles,
but away from the tourists—including plenty of Russians—
outside the city, in the hills, forests,
spectacular and groomed, matched the image
in my mind of how a Russian forest should look:
the lime trees fully leafed, the pines superior,
with sparse underbrush, scented woods in which
Grushenka, Lara, Anna might have met
a lover for a tryst, their bed of pine
needles blunted by their bodies’ heat
or did the lover thoughtfully produce
a blanket from behind his supple back?
I wanted love to come into my life
as it had in theirs; instead I got a forest,
which, however, was so beautiful
I fell in love with it. Before we’d left
for Yalta, we were briefly visitors
at Peredelkino, the writers’ colony
where so many well-known Russian writers
stayed over the years, working feverishly—
or maybe not, but so I imagined them—
as if God or the Tsar or the KGB
stood over them with shining, sharpened axes,
waiting for word to cut them down like trees.


Kelly Cherry
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