Russian peasant farm, "First Snow," by Nikolai Smirnov
BEAVER SOUL 15 July 8, 1992. Komarovo, Russia
I sleep in a Russian field. A magpie
and a cricket sing my lullaby.
Walking here, I saw campion and scabious.
A bumblebee visits the meadow sweet.
After these months of readying myself,
July is mine. Russia is mine. Nothing
can take my peacefulness away. Even sun!
At Komarovo! Where there is little sun.
It is not the Bay of Finland which
draws me, but this meadow a-buzz
with insects, steaming itself dry so
slowly that no mist rises. Perhaps
only the tall, lyrical birches give it
away: I’m in Russia, not Wales,
not North Carolina. The magpie
could be mistaken for a mockingbird;
the wildflowers could be picked in
Wales. Blackberry vines would look
the same wherever they were. But
I’m here. Because I wanted to be
here. Because the door opened once
and only I passed through. Now I
learn the secret life of the beaver
in a new way. The vulnerable white
bark of the birches opens in me a new
softness; the grasses tremble around
me with an unfamiliar tenderness.
My soul comes to rest. The meadow welcomes
me now because the people here
have tugged the heavy gate that
was between us open. It is as if
we were all seated in this sunny
meadow. Our fears have retreated
like cowardly, humbled animals
to the shadows around us. We
drink nectar. We find all the
words we want. And our eyes
say the rest. Our language is
the only human one; our tongues
taste ambrosia. A kind, pale
light is with us, day and night.
We are never alone. The jasmine
and wild roses rejoice with us.
The rain laughs and disappears.
Our quiet voices climb the
white sky and, when we awaken,
the white light beckons us
to morning communion.
I wrote this poem nearly 25 years ago, while staying at a Writers House of Creativity, Komarovo, near St. Petersburg in Russia. It's in my book Beaver Soul, published in Russia in 1997, and here in 2013 by Finishing Line Press. A signed copy: $12, with tax and shipping $15, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559