The Tuesday Poem
We're far north;
beyond the setting point of the sun
which rims the horizon
as though it could always be summer.
Late July, and the birch trees
shift and shiver at three am
in a wind straight from Murmansk
and the perpetual arctic ice.
From the lake's edge the land seems
to go on forever - beyond politics,
into the impossible distances
of history, where women still
wash their clothes in the stream
and sleep above the stove.
Their children crowd the landing stage
with jars of wild strawberries,
flash stainless-steel teeth
at my bad Russian, show me
their living space above the cows -
a garden fenced with chopped logs,
cellars of potatoes stacked
against the fixed line where the sun sets
and the long winter night closes
over the trees like an eye-lid.
© Kathleen Jones
I wrote this poem after a trip to Russia which took me far to the north, towards Archangel. It was almost this time of year, three weeks past midsummer and during the 'white nights' when it's daylight for twentyfour hours. The living conditions of people in these remote rural areas didn't seem to have changed at all in a thousand years. I couldn't imagine what it must be like during the winter when the sun doesn't rise for almost three months.