The pandemic was daily news last year,
often from someone’s kitchen or study.
Once, behind a British virologist’s
talking head, was a black and white lithograph
from the same series of a hundred
as one we have: ‘Berezy’, ‘Birches’,
ours bought in Moscow’s Izmailovsky Market –
the May Putin was first crowned – from the artist’s
son, the father an emigré in New York.
Uncle Vanya and the Three Sisters
might stray into the etching’s romantic
melancholy, its stillness, its almost
ominous quietude, its imminent
sense of loss – as if the hawser taut
across the quarry in ‘The Cherry Orchard’
were about to snap at any moment.
Through a tangled thicket of leafless birch trees
a stretch of water gleams: beyond, a low rise
with a pale fence, and a wooden dacha small
against an alabaster sky.