We joined the queue one warm afternoon two days

before Victory Day, and the week Putin

was first crowned. There were police everywhere –

mostly, it seemed, armed thirteen year olds

in wide-brimmed caps. One halted the queue

to allow a group of be-medalled,

self-conscious veterans to enter first.

Inside, we were ‘forbidden to smoke, talk, photograph,

video, or have your hands in your pockets’.


Exiled to the conifer forests

of Central Siberia with its gnat

legions of summer, its winter numbing,

he took his pseudonym then soubriquet

from the river Lena, its waters

replete with minerals and mammoth tusks.


Curious the great revolutionary

with that questioning, directing look  –

who found sleep elusive so studied French

grammar books to send him to the Land of Nod –

through no choice of his own, preserved like a

waxwork or a shaman!




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  1. #1 by Ian Craine - October 27th, 2017 at 13:16

    Well, well, I never knew that “Lenin” came from the Lena River- I’d never made the connection. Very interesting, David.

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