Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds

Eleanor Lerman

 
This is what she says about Russia, in the year 2000, in
a restaurant on Prince Street, late on a summer night
She says: all the chandeliers were broken and in the winter,
you couldnít get a drink, not even that piss from Finland.
The whole country was going crazy. She thinks she is speaking
about the days before she left, but I think, actually, that she is
recounting history. Somebody should be writing all this down
Or not. Perhaps the transition from Communism to a post-Soviet
federation as seen through the eyes of a woman who was hoping,
at least, for an influx of French cosmetics is of interest only to me.
And why not? It seems that the fall of a great empire—revolution!
murder! famine! martial music!—has had a personal effect.
Picture an old movie: here is the spinning globe, the dotted line
moving, dash by dash, from Moscow across the ocean to
New York and itís headed straight for me. Another blonde
with an accent: the cityís full of them. Nostrovya! A toast
to how often I donít know whatís coming at me next.
So here is a list of what she left behind: a husband, an abortion,
a mathematical education, and a black market career in
trading currencies. And what she brought: a gray poodle,
eight dresses and a fearful combination of hope, sarcasm,
and steel-eyed desire to which I have surrendered. And now
I know her secrets: she will never give up smoking.
She would have crawled across Eastern Europe and fed
that dog her own blood if she had to. And her motherís secrets:
she would have thought, at last, that you were safe with me.
She hated men. Let me, then, acknowledge that last generation
of the women of the enemy: they are a mystery to me.
They would be a mystery even to my most liberal-minded friends.
Thatís not to say that the daughter, this new democrat, canít be
a handful. And sometimes noisy: One of those girls you see
now (ice blue manicure, real diamonds and lots of DKNY)
leans over from the next table and says, Canít you ask your wife
to hold it down? My wife? I suppose I should be insulted,
but I think itís funny. This is a dangerous woman they want
to quiet here. A woman who could sew gold into the ragged lining
of anybodyís coffin. Who knows that money does buy freedom.
Who just this morning has obtained a cell phone with a bonus plan.
She has it with her, and I believe she means to use it.
Soon, she will be calling everyone, just to wake them up.
 
From Our Post Soviet History Unfolds by Eleanor Lerman, published by Sarabande Books. Copyright © 2005 by Eleanor Lerman. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Small Talk by Eleanor Lerman
It is a mild day in the suburbs
Starfish by Eleanor Lerman
This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
That Sure is My Little Dog by Eleanor Lerman
Yes, indeed, that is my house that I am carrying around
The Mystery of Meteors by Eleanor Lerman
I am out before dawn, marching a small dog through a meager park


Further Reading

Politics and Patriotism
Howl, Parts I & II
by Allen Ginsberg
America
by Robert Creeley
America
by Claude McKay
America
by James Monroe Whitfield
American History
by Michael S. Harper
American Names
by Stephen Vincent Benťt
Bomb Crater Sky
by Lam Thi My Da
Dear George Bush
by Kristin Prevallet
December 2, 2002
by Juliana Spahr
Delicate Cluster
by Walt Whitman
Dolphinating
by Juan Felipe Herrera
Election Day, November, 1884
by Walt Whitman
Election Year
by Donald Revell
Exquisite Candidate
by Denise Duhamel
Exquisite Politics
by Denise Duhamel
Fellini in Purgatory
by Jean Valentine
Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind
by Carl Sandburg
How We Did It
by Muriel Rukeyser
I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes
In a Country
by Larry Levis
it: a userís guide
by Evie Shockley
Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes
Modern Declaration
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Patriotics
by David Baker
Praise Song for the Day
by Elizabeth Alexander
Thanksgiving Letter from Harry
by Carl Dennis
The Condoleezza Suite [Excerpt]
by Nikky Finney
The Throats of GuantŠnamo
by Katie Ford
Thoughts
by Walt Whitman
To Roosevelt
by Rubén Darío