Friday, June 20, 2003

Lenin's bones

In Russia, everyone talks about Lenin
(who says
you can't lie in poetry?)
Lenin lies in his tomb and visitors mass like pigeons
in Venice, a calmer place, to his square
squat & clay-colored
monument (I won't lie:
I never went in to see the bones
I felt it sufficed to see Russia.)

(Of course, that isn't
fair. the old woman I saw
by the summer-colored Summer Palace
sprawl, pulling handfuls of sticks from
fistfuls of snow, may have as easily been the pinkie toe
of C. the Great)

Pinkie toe
why didn't Russia
just say no?

My father has traveled to:
Costa Rica
The Queen Charlotte Islands
Never Russia,
though he was a Trotskyite at

nowadays, he and my brother
who studied history and government
with a convert�s zeal in college argue
about Stalin
he brought industry he stood up to Hitler
he was brilliant he was crazy
twenty-million dead.

Lenin has a tomb
He can be understood
or at least stood over, and

Russian vendors hawk Stalin
to tourists
on streetsides, on clifftops, by the
hundreds, along with Matrushka dolls
and liquor flasks flagged with hammer'n'sickle.
Not one of our tour guides
would speak his name

the hunched bundled woman pried branches
from the snow outside the Summer Palace where
C. the Great once flooded a ballroom
and left the windows open. C. came back
to ice skate. now tourists shod in plastic booties
slip delicately from room to room. Their feet
never touch the ground.

Trotsky had an affair / (is an ice pick
with Frida Kahlo. How bad / an absolution? Stalin
could he be? / just died)

our tour guides would mention
the Great Revolution, perhaps V.I. L
then skip to 91 and say, Russia opened! they would talk
about hotels. one pointed out
the first McDonalds, for which, at lunchtime,
people mass like pigeons to Venice, a calmer
place, even today.

Venice, I found
uninteresting, and smelly. From Moscow,
I contracted a parasite. Like a tattoo, it fades
but never goes away.

My mother saw Moscow in the sixtees
When she left her hotel room, people would come
dig through her bags, tap her phones
She expected this

My trip went smoothly, but I never saw Lenin
Only from the outside, only his trackmarks, never
the bones, which I hear they have to bury now
after all. What I regret is not buying
a Matrushka doll
My boyfriend�s Russian father
received one from a neighbor, filled with vodka,
and laughed and laughed and laughed.

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