Moscow 1990s. The Soviet Union has collapsed, bare shelves in the shops, no wages - nothing. People line the streets trying to sell what few possessions they have. Natasha is one such citizen. Like many other respectable women, she turned to prostitution.
She descends from en-suite and the balcony-shops,
sways down the stairway, leather-mini concealing,
sometimes revealing, lace stocking-tops;
carries her bruises where nobody sees.
In the hub of the foyer the faces are probing,
sharp as the glare of the night-patrol's lamps,
as she sprinkles a vapour of perfume around them.
Where has she been? What has she seen?
Edge ever nearer, want her but fear her.
From the shelters and hides of their devalued lives
the other girls know what she carries inside,
science degree, career that tumbled when the
foundations supporting the Motherland crumbled.
The Westerner sits and weighs up the scene,
wealthy vibrations of pleasure and ease.
''Are you looking for fun?'' almost a prayer,
crouching before him, hands on his knees;
smouldering eyes hide the pleading inside;
bleak deserts of poverty stretching before her,
murk of the tenement, queuing and crying,
pauper-line selling, pauper-line buying.
''How much?'' he demands. Heart skips a beat, will he
be the one to be swept off his feet? Will he
whisk her away? New York maybe? Somewhere D.C.?
''Two-hundred,'' she blurts, ''American-bills...''
She suddenly chills. Pitiless tips of cruel
icebergs drift-in from the Muscovite mist
to rip-off the fees she must squeeze from
the floating unfaithful who crawl through her knees.
''Too dear,'' he waves her away.
‘It's me!’ She's crying inside. ‘It's me – every-
man's bride.’ “What am I worth?" she wonders aloud.
"Seventy-five," he replies, "one of the crowd."
She rises before him, standing head bowed,
defeated, not cowed. The girls turn away,
back to their chat. At the bar, double
Scotch-on-the-rocks is served to a rat.
Copyright © Charlie Gregory | Year Posted 2017
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