(Irina, during the Siege)

Last year I turned eighteen
you know. To celebrate we boiled
our cat. He was fatter than us
from rats. A stew seemed right
to hide what we ate. That
was November,
lives ago.

Dawn, cold. Dusk, cold.
Thirty below, all our furniture
burned. Darkness hammers
the brain. We droop like sails,
wind gone — even troops, even
Komsomols. One can’t
any more

tell she from he:
wrapped mummies, moving
more slowly, layers sinking
in on themselves. Families go
out and just don’t return – dozens
each day, face up on the Prospekt,
toes glazed with ice. The dead
don’t need boots.

Who knows where they’ll lie
when iron earth unfreezes?
Now no one’s buried. They stack up
in courtyards, feet sideways
hard as oaks. Some piled by graveyards
have cutlets for markers: insides
of thighs carved

away. Of this, no one speaks;
but we venture in threes against those
sleek with smiling. It’s plain
what they feed on.

O what will become
of us, beautiful city — my Venice
of beasts and death? It’s been snowing
since ever. The sky pours down slush.
Each garbage-filled alley says danger

the streets crack with thick
shifting ice.