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!