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HUNGER

Susan Smith Nash

 

 

Breakfast.

Yogurt with hazelnuts.  Thick pancakes,

cottage cheese mixed into the batter.

Russian black bread.  Cheese.

Chai. Orange juice.

 

In the St. Petersburg metro

pulling out from the Nevsky Prospect Station

a dark-skinned woman hoists up her child,

skinny fingers tug off a knit stocking cap

I see her little girl with patches shaved from her scalp

as if from malnutrition, or some strange surgery;

"Don't give money -- she's a professional,"

warns my friend.  The little girl has marbles

for eyes, modeling clay for lips.

 

A Russian girl watches without smiling,

white bows frothing from blonde braids.

 

Lunch.

Chilled beets.  Sour cream.

Soup with salami and chives.

Breaded meat, warm cabbage and pickles.

Black bread.  Coffee with milk.

 

In the restaurant's spotless lavatory,

a pensioner, collarbones

pressing against her cotton dress,

collects one ruble per visitor.

I mistakenly give her 10. 

"That was an act of kindness," says my friend. 

The cool summer rain mists around us,

soaks my pulled shoulder with a dull, gray ache.

 

The cashier fills a teacup with scalding water from a samovar.

She sips her tea slowly. We decide not to take the Metro.