Russia at the Collapse of the Communist Era
She descends from en-suite and the balcony-shops;
sways down the stairway, leather-mini concealing,
sometimes revealing, lace stocking-tops;
carries her bruises where nobody sees.
In the hub of the foyer the faces are probing,
sharp as the glare of the night-patrol's lamps,
some fantasizing, others disrobing;
”Where has she been? What has she seen?”
Edge ever nearer; want her but fear her.
From the shelters and hides of their devalued lives
the other girls know what she carries inside;
science-degree; career that tumbled
when the shaky foundations of Motherland crumbled.
The Westerner sits and weighs up the scene,
wealthy vibrations of pleasure and ease.
''Are you looking for fun?'' almost a prayer,
crouching before him, hands on his knees;
smouldering eyes hide the pleading inside;
bleak deserts of poverty stretching before her,
murk of the tenement, queuing and crying,
pauper-line selling, pauper-line buying.
''How much?'' he demands. Heart skips a beat;
will he be the one to be swept off his feet?
Will he whisk her away? New York maybe?
''Two-hundred,'' she blurts, ''American-bills...''
She suddenly chills. Pitiless tips of cruel icebergs
drift-in from the Muscovite mist to rip-off the fees
she must squeeze from the floating-unfaithful
who crawl through her knees.
''Too dear,'' he waves her away.
It's me! She's crying inside.
It's me – every-man's bride.
"What am I worth?" she wonders aloud.
"Seventy-five," he replies, "one of the crowd."
She rises before him, standing head bowed,
defeated – not cowed.
The girls turn away, back to their chat.
At the bar, double Scotch-on-the-rocks
is served to a rat.