Monday, November 24, 2014


Not until after breakfast do I check my phone
and see that I’ve had a call from St. Petersburg,
Russia. There is no message, so I am left to imagine
who, half a world away, reached out to my number
at 3:43 a.m. Have I gotten on the wrong side
of the Russian mafia, who are calling now to collect
interest on that start-up money for the matryoshka
doll factory that I have dreamed of since grade
school? Or could it be the principal dancer
for the Mariinsky ballet, who has never recovered
from the night I left her at the Palace Bridge, her tears
adding imperceptibly to the dark and placid Neva?

Probably just a scam. Some so-called tsarevna,
descended from Nicholas II, who will pay me
in Fabergé eggs if I fund her return to the throne.
On my walk to the train I try to imagine her
reaching out to this stooped and greying school
teacher, descendant of a long line of unsuccessful
peasant farmers, believing he might actually sign over
his retirement, his 401(k), for a longshot invitation
to the imperial court. When I reverse the call,
I get a recording of a woman’s voice, heavily
accented, lilting and fricative, but after a dozen listens
I can make out only “een-ter-net provider,” and, later
still, translate a single word, repeated: luchshe, luchshe (better).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Flying Shoes

After my coffee I walked
the short distance around the corner,
ducking under the hanging limbs
of the birch tree next to the frame shop,
and stepped into the little bookstore
with the padded armchairs and a cat.

In my usual corner next to the poets
I pulled one book by a recent laureate
and another I hadn’t heard of but
whose author was a “prodigious new talent”
and had two fellowships and a prize to prove it.
I liked reading them there, in that chair,

liked the idea that the cat could jump on my lap
and settle to sleep as though she thought
I belonged.  So that explains my mood
when I saw the pair of pink sneakers draped over the power line
after I left the store and the poets and the cat
behind, walking alone to my car

but still believing the shoes
had been deliberately kicked off
in mid-flight.