Pamela Porter
"Photograph: Svetlana Stalin and her Father"

Svetlana Stalin and her Father

She is seven and smiling, caught
in the crook of her father’s arm.
His hand cups her chin,
his sleeve envelopes her,
and she must believe, as small girls do,
that he is close to God,
the sun bright as a watch
                        he keeps on a chain.

Behind them waits a regiment of trees,
and behind the trees a wide field, geese,
a lake white with swans,
and beyond in the far city,
verdigris domes
where, inside, candles flame,
because the day has turned to winter
and there is a sound of boots in the streets;
because the trains are full
and hunch across the snow
into the open mouth at the edge of the world.

It is what small girls learn, curled
toward sleep in their beds:
a man brushes past his daughter
and without kiss or touch, goes out
into darkness, a door
shut quiet behind him.

If I could light a lantern
and show her a photograph of her future,
the dead refusing silence,
trains rusting under snow and the blighted
circle of the moon,
and she carrying his name like iron,
all the questions would remain the same:
who is God?  And what is love to do then?


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