Author Joseph Heywood
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Perestroika

We Moscow shuffle
Along thirty-foot-wide sidewalks
Sidewindering through December snow
Shoulder to shoulder comrades
Our hot feet making mocha
Moving like lemmings
Toward the Metro,
Great holes in the ground
wrought by Uncle Joe,
Another week of work-slash-chaos
Ending as it began, absent color
Or purpose, few lights,
No talking, a cough now and then
Millions of feet scuffle-shushing
In unison if not cadence,
Black coats and shapkas
Tendrils of breath rising off us to mix
With sweat fumes, tobacco.

At the New Cemetery
Outside the walls of Novodevichy
I see The Moscow Hills
looming above the river
An oxbow, of course
Not yet iced shut,
To be investigated
For fish.
An old man in baggy brown pants
Has a fiberglass pole in a sand spike
Sits on a bucket, smoking with the
Delicate gesture that marks a Russian.
Behind us clots of soldiers
in pea green and red take guided tours
of hallowed grounds, young men
with pimply faces and blank stares
patent leather belts, no weapons,
their black boots thick-soled and clunky.
The old man
says Amerikansky?
I ask about the soldiers taking tours
He says, “Raisa, she gets them ready
For Democracy.” He takes a puff, expectorates,
“The Church told Stalin everything,
Was a home to kah-geh-beh, en-keh-veh-deh
The crazy Reds, da?”

Outside the Praga
A restaurant only in name
Masses mass to stare
At the cathedral of commerce
State-run eatery filled with generals
Bowls of Beluga, sweet wines
Medals clinking as counterpoint to ice in drinks
While young blonde women in faux
Alligator miniskirts mingle,
Flexing their iron glutes like adverts.
One called Marissa leaves a general with
Red shoulder boards
Asks me if she can sell me a cure for cancer
And when I decline
Offers herself,
A temporary cure for being alone
In the Evil Empire.
A night of socialist fraternity?
She says “A night of socialist sex
ees not so different, I think
Than democratic sex.
A carton of Marlboros is
Customary – a tip, Da?
 Love-making is free.”


 
 
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