All night I thought of Leningrad, the streetlights
blinking in the snow, the women’s faces
staring out from high apartment windows,
and the trees bent down with snow, the disappearance
of the husbands, their returnings, how
women’s faces are like candle flames.
How cold it was! I thought of wooden drays
pulled by horses, and a driver’s hands
pulled into sleeves, false dawn, the gray
long boulevard between the blocks of houses
looming over him; how his face betrays
not a single thought that is not his.
Snow falling into snow, a mongrel scampermg
back and forth across the boulevard,
a doorway lighted for a moment, vanishing
as the door is closed; an old
man keeps walking up and down; he keeps on brushing
snow from off his overcoat and beard.
I thought of all the cherished and uncherished lives
that vanish from each other, how sometimes
we start toward strangers and they turn away, their eyes
downcast, remembering the bends
of rivers under ice, how the wind will slide
all living creatures down the glossy slopes.
And you from me, sometime. And you from me.
Ground cover me, and wind your ashes take;
our stories, stories; and our headlong dreams
spun into other dreams, or tiny breaks
between the clouds. What we tried to mean
is not what we became or could forsake.
The snow fell harder; soon the street became
a swirling tunnel filled with voices as
awed children yelled from stoops, and names
turned oddly into syllables, the trees
bent against the hedges and the windows slammed
deeper into ice-glazed window sills.
I heard you call me by a name not mine
but somehow fitting. There was tea
warmed beside the pilot light. Your face was framed
in soft and loosened hair; the tapestry
of morning love was in your touch, a line
of snow fell curving from the balcony.
© Dick Allen