Our house, the street’s first, was built epochs ago
on Cheshire pastureland. There has been nothing
for history to note here – only births, deaths,
the occasional fire and break-in,
and marriages at the Methodist Church
almost opposite us. Empires collapsed
from within – Austro-Hungarian,
British, French, German, Ottoman, Russian,
and Soviet. Here only the seasons came,
and bed-sits, then gentrification.
Now the St Petersburg Resurrection
A Cappella Choir – founded post-Gorbachev
to sing the liturgy in concert halls –
performs this autumn night in the church feet
from our front door. So powerful is this octet
the first three rows are kept entirely empty.
The utilitarian space fills with that
Russian Orthodox polyphony
guaranteed to make even an infidel’s
neck hairs tingle – plangent, sonorant, soulful.
I think of Tolstoy’s novel ‘Resurrection’,
his last – the hypocrisy of suppression,
the injustices of poverty,
the long path to redemption through cold, dull wastes.
During the interval, like a scene
from some implausible cold war movie
three Russian men in DJs – the two basses
and the conductor/founder of the choir
quietly, almost surreptiously, leave
the building, and go into the shadows
of the small, bushy garden. Matches flare.
Three cigarette ends glow.