White Nights

by Cornelia Rohde

“But one day, I know, it will be otherwise.” Jane Kenyon

Stilettos click on the
stones of St Petersburg,
on streets where the starving dragged
sledges with corpses through snow,
while besieging Nazis savaged the
glittering ballrooms of Tsarkoe Selo.

Women with candlelit shoulders,
red smiles, flaxen hair, sleek in Dior,
sip Beaujolais from cut crystal,
suppress the ghosts of their grandmothers
who huddled numb in bomb shelters.

We watch Porches, Bentleys, Maseratis
race down chic Nevsky Prospekt
where defending cannon held fort,
notice pink-haired punks
studded with metal slouch by
purple shoes of a grey-haired sweeper,
one plucky survivor
of a million dead from the siege.

We smile as a downy cheeked groom
lifts his bride from
a black Humvee stretch limousine
to pose near the onion domed
Church on Spilled Blood.
Around them, prams roll
in parks blushing with blossoms;
lovers and magicians trade tricks
in the lavish sun of White Nights.

We order salmon blinys and Baltica beer,
half expecting to dine on broth
of a thousand nightingales’ tongues,
watch an ostentation of peacocks
preen past our table.
We prefer not to recognize
that darker days will
come again. We would rather
lean into the light.


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