Belye Nochi

Streets glazed with brine, the reek of a dead wren, and cabbage.
Midnight pearls down the narrow channels of Leningrad.
It is August. Moonless white nights skulk along the walk
to December Street. Further down, the boulevard and the bread-stand.
Our bodies are fugitive regrets: true morning will come
with its rusted sun scuffing the hide of our tongues.
Next year at this time no syrniki drenched in honey. No
candlelight or caviar. Not an apricot.
Akhmatova poses against a metal grate, a bandana at the neck of her
quarried words. At her feet, a bounty of stolen apples for the people.
At what cost this ripening thievery, feeding us in the wings
of a half-empty palace? The light from our mouths she was,
and was vapor that unleashed misfortune.
Occupying every room.

 

 

 

 

Carine Topal’s work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including The Best of the Prose Poem, Greensboro Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Lily. Bed of Want, her second collection, won the 2007 Robert G. Cohen Prose Poetry Award. She is the recipient of the 2015 Briar Cliff Review Award for Poetry. Her prize-winning book, Tattooed, won the Palettes and Quills Chapbook contest. Her fifth collection, In Order of Disappearance, was published in 2018 by Pacific Coast Poetry Series. She teaches poetry and memoir workshops in Southern California. (Photo courtesy of Scott Mitchell)