It was gone, the Indian restaurant
Zhaltarang--with its stingy service,
cheap, peppered chapati and muddy coffee.
In its place--a members-only edifice,
a place for the elite to spy on swans.
I turned away from the water,
wilted onto a park bench,
a woolen skirt pooling round my legs;
stared at Griboyedov's bronze back,
The shadows lengthened
along the boulevard.
My feet found their way to Telegrafny,
through the vestibule of Menshikov tower,
in time for Vigil at St. Gabriel's.
Merging with a cloud of incense,
I bought a beeswax taper
from a grumpy babushka,
and cradled it in a sweaty palm,
mouthing, "Gospodi, pomilui."
I pretended to watch the lost doves
fluttering in the cupola;
a sideways glance
assured me of his presence.
Make way for those behind you,
I told myself, sliding forward
till the edge of a shadow
cast by a broad-brimmed hat--
dangling on a string--
barely brushed my hand.
And then I sang again, "pomilui,"
wanting, and yet not wanting
him to turn and notice me.
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