Susan Smith Nash
A cool rain. A forest of umbrellas.
A large clearing where tourists blossom
like t-shirted wildflowers. The click of cameras
and voices producing memories like souvenirs.
A woman offers to give me a tour in English
if I pay her in cash here where we stand
next to a marble statue of Adonis.
A guy comes around collecting for parking,
asks for 10 rubles, settles for 5, pocketed.
At the entrance gate, we are all charged the "Russian" rate,
although I am clearly foreign and a "stranger."
My friend doesn't ask for tickets.
The attendant pockets the bills.
Small, corrupt, ostensibly necessary ways of doing business.
A cool rain. The tourists shake their umbrellas,
preparing to enter.
We drive slowly back to St. Petersburg.
Mile after mile of factories, each with
broken windows, gray light, large clearings.
Nothing grows but randy sunflowers
and undisciplined nostalgia.
I am a foreigner, and
I do not understand the old, fading socialist dream.
We pass a quiet forest of tractors.
Rust melts like memory.
The tourists are still in the gift shop.