I met a woman named Nata
with short blonde dreadlocks.
I met her boyfriend Fyodor,
who fell a bit in love with me.
A little in love with both,
I ordered ice cream
with champanskie, wore bing cherry
earrings that looked real enough to eat.
I was a girl in a flute in the city
of Petrograd, a city called Leningrad
when I was a girl. Nata and Fed
led me up a scaffold. We sat
on newsprint, split block chocolate.
The bricks of the roof read
of families whom we starlit
serenaded. I learned Cyrillic.
I spelled my name. Fed imitated
a hunched babushka. At the airport later,
he battled a spitting officer
on my behalf. We are happy
to speak English, the woman said
on my Riga layover. I had addressed her
in Russian and knew no better.
This world, I knew, would pass me by.
Eileen G’Sell is a poet and culture critic with recent contributions to Fence, The Hopkins Review, Current Affairs, Hyperallergic, Reverse Shot, and other outlets. Her first full-length volume of poetry, Life After Rugby, was published in 2018 by Gold Wake Press, and in 2019 she was nominated for the national Rabkin Foundation award in arts journalism. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.