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Image by Guido Fuà


the madrigal, volume iii.v


by vera zakharov

The Moscow flat you left behind is an index
of your life’s passions
sewing patterns and moth-eaten wool
scraps from your East German holidays
gilt foil origami from the cigarette packs that finally killed you
and all of my childhood drawings.

Disguised in a chocolate box is your collection of metals
nickel, palladium, copper, tin, bismuth
and a gold hoop, raw hewn
not quite a ring
snuck out of your nuclear research facility
in Sarov
infamous closed city, mapless place
where my mother, your daughter was born.

You never wore gold
and neither did we
after the gulag mines nearly killed your mother’s sister
the bareness of your unwedded fingers
suited you.
Mine remain unadorned too.

Half a century
after the first smuggling mission
I watch deadpan as customs officials
officious remnants of militia rule
mob hungry
for precious confiscations
tear apart luggage
to find the tattered box that blipped technicolour
on their scanner display
inspect this collection of lumps in pale lustres
one square empty.

Upon take off
hurtling west
sweat cools against my flesh
pooling in the crevice of my chest where a band now hangs from a chain
the only gold I will wear
wedding me
to the remnants of you.

Vera Zakharov is a Russian-American settled in Brighton, UK, living with a partner, toddler and cat. She campaigns on food issues and runs foraging sessions. She writes poems when time allows, usually on motherhood, sex, heritage and climate change. Her work has been published in fabric-ation eco-poetry collaboration and the Poetrygram Annual. Twitter: @Verushka 

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