Moscow, 1975
eager to take me by the elbow
guide me through the silent streets
one fresh from the navy the other a student
delighted for a chance to polish their English
laughing at what I struggle to say
in make-believe Russian
as we approach a crowded park
the student warns me not to speak
not in English not even tell-tale Russian
vigilantes prowl with clubs in hand
looking to thrash gray-haired vagrants
asleep on decrepit benches
under a tree shaded from streetlights
the sailor takes me by the hand
presses a gift into my palm
warns me not to let the vigilantes see
Passover matzoh
baked in secret by his mother