Poetry: The Book of my Enemy — Young Lady in Black | clivejames.com
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Young Lady in Black

The Russian poets dreamed, but dreamed too soon,
Of a red-lipped, chalk-white face framed in black fur:
Symbol of what their future would be like —
Free, lyrical and elegant, like her.
In the love songs of their climacteric
I met you before I met you, and you were
The way you are now in these photographs

Your father took outside the Hermitage.
You stand on snow, and more snow in the air
Arrives in powdered form like rice through space.
It hurts to know the colour of your hair
Is blacker than your hat. Such is the price
Figments exact by turning real: we care
Too much. I too was tricked by history,

But at least I saw you, close enough to touch,
Even as time made touch impossible.
The poets never met their richly dressed
Princess of liberty. The actual girl
Was lost to them as all the rest was lost:
Only their ghosts attended the snowfall
The camera stopped when you stood in the square,

Fiction made fact at long last and too late.
My grief would look like nothing in their eyes.
I hear them in the photographs. The breath
Of sorrow stirs the cold dust while hope dies
The worst way, in the vision of rebirth,
As by whole generations they arise
From pitted shallows in the permafrost

And storm the Winter Palace from the sky.
Each spirit shivering in a bead of light,
They fall again for what they once foretold —
For you, dawn burning through its cloak of night.
They miss what I miss, and a millionfold.
It all came true, it’s there in black and white:
But your mouth is the colour of their blood.