by Matilda Houston-Brown

I can.
It is terrible, terrible,
To view the dead bloodless animal
that hides between the silences,
To meet its eyes and stare and stay alive.

I have been waiting until my fingers grow tired
Of holding my voice, fluttering like a half torn flag,
In the lines of my palms,
I have been waiting for the cold, my cold,
my son, my city, to bite its teeth and lock its jaw.

I will burn my voice to keep you warm,
my son, my city, Leningrad.
I can.

The silence has fallen on the faces
That are not truly faces anymore,
Painting lips blue with disuse.

It has been spread over us all,
Cleaving distance in the lines
Of half mothers and half wives.

I will remember this for us,
Empty mouths hungry with loss
Of Russia and each other.

It is my long monthed weight,
Carried in my stomach,
My burden and its muted strength.

My God, my mother-land, my city
And my son.
I promise, I promise
I can.