1

The girl behind the bar is in love with you, do you know that?

Look at what happened to Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky—

Sad lives, early deaths, the world no better a place.

It is cold in the kitchen, but you feel nothing,

Reading… The Russians, too, never felt their own weather

In all those fictions. It came from inside them.

People out walking, on the East Pier,

Swarm in their thousands, ghosts of the Nevsky Prospekt.

Where do they come from? Where on earth do they vanish to?

2

Grey-haired now, the girl behind the bar

Has given up on children… And for forty years

No-one has disturbed it, the white cold silence of the kitchen.

The bollards are still grass-grown, on that other pier

Across the water, where time stops

And a decommissioned lightship rusts at anchor.

Half the world has gone to its death. But you,

You are still eighteen, the ice on the Neva

Still unbroken, life unreal outside the hermitage wall.