Two poems by Sue Burge

The Distractor Brides of St Petersburg

As we walk from the Peter and Paul Fortress,
my mind is full of the Romanov women with
their armour plating of hidden jewellery,
taking bullet after bullet.

Slowly we realise that at every corner
the same scene is unfolding :
a glossy white stretch limo,
entwined gold rings on the sleek bonnet,
blonde or brunette beehived brides
in creamy satin and thick white pelts.

Classic vistas frame their radiance :
the Birzhevoy Bridge, the River Neva
freezing to a still, grey porridge.
The Winter Palace, St Isaac’s Cathedral,
the Church on Spilled Blood’s patterned domes
turning snowflakes into kaleidoscopes.

Fairytale scenes of snow queenliness.
Mosaics of smashed champagne flutes.
Icy streams of celebration.
Floating feathers of released doves.
We stop once, twice, ten times –
uninvited witnesses of breathless promises
hanging in the air like frozen banners.

As we watch, the silky fingers of Petersburg
pickpockets expertly take all we have.
By the time we realise all the brides are identical,
with their fixed matryoska smiles,
we are naked from head to toe.

We stumble down Nevsky Prospect towards our hotel
along a conveyor belt of rolling champagne bottles.
Our pink skin hoaring,
ice at our hearts and groins,
ripe snow brides.

A Walk in the Peaks

Clouds scuttle across the sky
like sheep a dreamer has forgotten
to stop counting.

Our walk is punctuated by stiles.
Slates like gravestones stacked against
a drystone wall.

We climb from Grindsbrook Booth to Hollins Cross
where the coffinbearers would pause
before the descent to Hope.

Whorls of wool litter the path as
sheep unravel in the fields.
Stones like bones uncovered by shifting mud.

Down a narrow lane a sudden breeze delivers
a swirl of blossom
transforming us into snowglobe figurines.

Ascending skylarks shatter the sky and
my head is full
of all the poetry I’ve ever forgotten.

About the author

Sue Burge's house is packed with exotica. She has immersed herself in hot springs on three continents, ridden horses, mules, camels, elephants and bicycles,…

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