Susan Smith Nash
Rain streaming down a glass belly
my fear outstretches itself
at this figure of a bat sprawled in a window,
paned and impaled by day;
the surface is smooth, the history abrasive
like our guide’s voice: “Welcome to Repin’s Home!”
and then, seeing my friend’s cell phone,
“You novii ruskii swine! I wish I had a gun!
I would exterminate you like a rat! You and
all your foreigner friends!”
But the only foreigner was me, trying to
downplay my Americanness, surrounded
by old uniforms, dried sweat, and mildew
rising up from the subjects of study after study --
Repin painting with a three-foot brush,
palette strapped to his waist – he, treating his failing eyes
carpal tunnel syndrom & trembling hands with defiance –
“I am the reincarnation of Peter the Great” he said,
and his self-portraits looked nothing like himself,
but Himself – he who pronounced all guests self-sufficient;
he sentenced those with aristocratic leanings in “the box”
where they defended their inability to mind themselves
and themselves alone.
The rain issued out from the night
like cloud after cloud of bats;
it froze me into my mind’s own window;
the guide’s rage spewed, my English consonants buzzed
like swarms of locusts coming over a holy land.
Last night, streaks of rain interrupted the window;
today, the pane interrupts the rain.
Transparent glass in the shape of a flying bat
is portraiture of memory itself;
glory, preservation, with identity-making
in spite of clarity and flight. Yes, flying is a state of mind;
it is a reaching up, or an echo, it is a sounding
or a fearful shame –
Day and night
are so confused these days.