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’s most recent book of poems is The Life and Death of Poetry (LSU, 2013). Her new book of interlinked short stories, A Kind of Dream, is forthcoming this spring from U of Wisconsin Press and is already listed for pre-order on Amazon.