Sunday, December 30, 2007


kolya, kot and i used to sneak
over the concrete wall to the local dry cleaners
and puncture with a nail or screwdriver
one of the steel benzol barrels in the corner
releasing a translucent arc of
chemical solvent
into our empty fanta bottles.

then we gathered between floors
in a slushy, wool-stinking stairwell,
soaked our rags
and put them to our cracked lips
and chapped noses
til one by one we slipped beneath a pin-pricked haze.
nothing but snow dripping into pools of light
and cigarette spit.
kot and kolya were running from moscow's government-issued air,
me from my blood and ears and crooked toes.
but we were in it together.
it was that simple.

this is how we spent our loose hours
before i left the country for good.
by the end, i got pretty good at figuring where the nail should go in.
meanwhile, the benzol ate away at different parts of my brain –
the part that computes complex mathematical equations,
that remembers people’s names,
that distinguishes love from degradation,
that sees what's so great about ginsberg and kerouac,
that separates truth from defiance.

all that the benzol left alone was a vague desire
to see letters appear on a page,
and the need
to please bad people.
but the bad people,
they've pretty much disappeared, too.