​2nd Prize: Poetry & Players Poetry Competition 2015

Birch Bark Letter Number 292

The deep cultural layer holds entire neighbourhoods
of wooden houses linked by walkways. It has swallowed
markets, citadels, several cathedrals.
Over time we have recovered comb cases,
leather knife shields and a thousand birch bark letters,
brittle and black as rain soaked leaves. One I flipped over
in the wet trench, breaking off a corner. Yevgeny
was my witness. I lost a husband, he a son
at the other Novgorod, now named for Gorky,
in Perm Thirty Six. Letters came back, unopened,
marked with the official stamp. We look at this letter,
imagine it in some future museum, safe beneath glass:

‘I write, but you do not reply
The forest is silent and I miss the smell of your skin
When I come to Novgorod, with the furs and honey
I will spend everything on [ ]combs
for your yellow [hair?].’