Second Skin

The Baltics 1981

I felt that slip before             as we were herded
into the cattle barn departure lounge of
St Petersburg      then Leningrad      and they
said you looked like Pushkin and took you
off for questioning a search through
souvenirs             and I felt the icy fear of the gulags
fury for the lost ten years of my grandfather
held captive in the desolate bear hug of Siberia
and you returned and slipped me back        laughed
at the quaintness of their paranoia        drank
tea from their samovars       I smiled behind a
mask as they stamped and displayed their armoury.

I slipped before as a tear let show the squeaky
shed skin of dad’s       homeland new cultural cloak
a flimsy guise             pinned, scarred, grieved.
I zip my skin            this thorny raw hide        this gabardine
against cold war and distant rain         until my skin
begins to itch again or the hungry growl of
the bear creeps back into my dreams.


This poem is taken from Firebird Baltic Blue and was also previously published in Regime Magazine WA.

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