The Ships of the Neva

by Neil McCarthy


It is like the first day after the last day of war

and I am the lost soldier, long presumed dead.

I am Pushkin returning from exile,

enough breath pent-up within

to blow the ships of the Neva seaward.

There are mirrors in the ice pools on the roads

and I am a ghost yet to be reflected.

There are eyes squinting and frowns below them,

a score of chary siskins amongst the poplars;

each a charade of me

in my capricious form of fancy.

There are four archangels perched upon a telephone

wire, three ready for take off; the other,

to mewl upon a blazing cloud,

perchance set alight this oblast.

This oblast is rich with blood. This oblast harbours

more than the ships of the Neva in its white sheets.

And I am crossing Anichkov where there are already

nine and twenty months of fire folded into the sky.

I feel nine ounces of bread in my hand and bruises

in my pocket ready for occasion.

I wish there were shoes in the shoe boxes that

I am returning to maraud,

but there are not.


Where in the shadows of these raw streets

does love last longer than a flyer?

I see good-will gestures of ill-tempered men recanted,

fickle as a photograph of wind.

I see the smile return to the seraphim's face,

fugitive as a wave's raucous beauty.

I see oligarchs and otters fighting for power,

peasants and perch watching on, toothless.

I see the waving arms of history reduced

to a nod

and wonder from whom are these tacit waters running

if not God?