Helsinki, (or Helsingfors to the Swedes,
and Khelsinki to the Russians),
is a city completed, calm in its prosperity.
To the first impression: a Playmobil set,
or an architect’s computer generation.
Everything costs Euros, and everyone is balanced.
At a barbecue that night,
Kata, a Finnish friend of a friend of a friend,
said “a Russian is still a Russian,
even if he’s fried in butter,”
and we laughed together.
The next morning, on the train Sibelius,
we sped through the crisp and ordered Finnish countryside,
and I try to imagine Russian troops,
in WWII, marching en masse down the roads,
across the fields.
It’s impossible to picture –
maybe for a reason.
The mind lives in dim refusal,
of all such things calamitous.
Coming into Russia, the train slows, and stops.
Russian immigration agents coldly check our passports.
More agents come on board, customs this time,
and check again, then search my bag.
We cross the border,
and enter vast and stoic Russia.
Everything’s run down and crumbling.
The signs are in Cyrillic.
A lost soul wanders on a dirt road.
The train slows, creaking on the dry iron.
Then it stops completely.
The afternoon sun warms the car,
streaming between the northern pines.
A young woman talks quietly on her phone in Russian,
then hangs up, and
and no one else speaks at all.
Russia is silent
with the burden of history.
We who visit can observe,
but never really know.