Meet and greet in St. Petersburg.
You are conveyed to your ship on the Neva
by conscripts in shackles
where you may play Repka (“radish”)
and gnaw your ration of brown bread.
[Your Gregorian calendar
will have been exchanged for the Julian.]
Guided tour of the Hermitage. As if
in two hours you can get past the ticket gate
with your papers. [Stuff your ears
with cotton before noon against the bang
of the midday cannon.]
Tea ladled from a samovar
and beet soup from a chipped tureen
comprise your repast before an evening
of state-sponsored ballet.
Bed down with feral tabbies
for an authentic sleep experience.
Excursion to Tsarskoye Selo, or Pushkin Town.
The fur-lined troika stops over
at Catherine the Great Palace
where you will contemplate the meaning
of “summer residence” and the relationship
between literature and real life.
A refreshing dip in the Grand Cascade fountain
at Peterhof Palace. [Soap and towels provided.]
Then on to your home-hosted visit to a kommunaltka
that shelters nine families.
Study this visionary answer to housing crises
that exist in urban areas like San Francisco.
Escorted Kremlin tour. A safe and secure
end to your stay. [Bugs and chips removed.]
Return to the world
as you never knew it.
—Cathryn Shea’s poetry has appeared in After the Pause, Gargoyle, Gravel, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Snap Bean, is by CC.Marimbo (2014, Berkeley). Cathryn is in the 2012 anthology Open to Interpretation: Intimate Landscape. She served as editor for Marin Poetry Center Anthology and is the author of dozens of software and database books, which you may be blessed never to read. Cathryn lives in Fairfax, CA. See www.cathrynshea.com and @cathy_shea on Twitter.