The Dream of the Dacha

You are walking in a deep forest of evergreens and oaks,
leaves muffling your steps, mud soaking
your pink satin shoes. Who wears silk shoes to walk
in the woods? You do. You were at a party, drank
champagne and danced to violins, the notes soaring
like birds out of the open windows and into the summer
night, but that was hours ago, and now you are on a path,

or you think there might be a path. You see it and then you don't,
but the moonlight comes from behind the clouds,
and its trail shimmers in the woods, and you think of mangata,
the Swedish word for the path moonlight
makes on water. Where are you? Sweden? No, Russia,
you are deep in a forest, and there are branches
you must push away, but they still tear at your dress,

almost like moonlight itself, and you hear small animals
scrabbling through the brambles on either side
of the path. In a fairy tale they would be escorts from their queen
who is waiting for you, has been waiting all your life
to show you how to crack the mirror of the present moment,
grow wings and fly into another world, a planet
where there are no doors or windows or walls,

but this is no fairy tale, and the animals have sharp teeth
that glimmer in the moon's reflection, and there are bears,
ferocious in their brown pelts teeming with shit and gnats and flies.
Do you know what flowers are at your feet? You can't see
the tiny white cups or yellow stars like scattered light. You
remember a poem, and you sing it as you walk,
gossiping with the stoat who is running along side you,

and when you are most lost you see a light in the distance,
or maybe not. Perhaps it's a trick of moonlight
on the leaves or a hallucination from poisoned wine,
but your arms and legs are weightless, and you
are running now as if someone were calling to you
from the darkest part of the night. Is there a clearing
where the trees thin? Is that a cottage? Yes, oh, yes, it is,

and you knock at the door, and who answers? Your mother,
but her hair is dark, and she hasn't forgotten how to laugh.
She heats the samovar and cuts a slice of cake
or maybe makes a sandwich of black bread and butter,
and you sweeten your tea with varenye, a soupy jam
with whole apricots swimming at the bottom of your cup,
just as you have read of in novels. Your mother shows you her garden

with its nine bean rows and tomatoes like rubies in the sun,
because it is day now, and your brother is there,
but he loves you again, and your sister is making mud pies
as she did as a girl, though she is older
and her hair is golden, and there is nothing to do all day but hunt
for blackberries and make jam or bake bread
or hike to the pool, swim, and dry off on the grass in the sun,

which is sometimes lost behind dark clouds that rumble
in the distance, and you smell the rain minutes before
it begins to fall and run back to the cottage, sit in a chair,
open a book, turn to the story of a grand estate,
a comet, a prince, and a woman who thinks
she knows her own heart but is only looking
through a window at a summer storm that might never end.

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