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21ST AUGUST, 1991
I mush together the garlic and the butter
for Kiev
for Kostroma too, and Novgorod;
slip wafers
of potato onto the rough tongue
of my grill. An onion
brings tears. Its layered histories
come clean: Russian-doll rings
that quoit and bangle over reels of drumsticks.

I call you at work. Mothers
are telegramming sons not to shoot, women
encircle the cold, grey bulk
of tanks, while the junta plays
Chinese whispers.

Tonight, then, we’ll eat well –
sip that jerepigo wine
till dusk. For now, I prepare what I can;
I watch, and listen,
through the frame of my window –
a radio mutters   and school-children
are a chaff of colour blown about the distant yard
where in one corner settles
a tiny mandala of linked hands.

Poet's Note: Dedicated to the Russian women who took to the streets to resist the attempted coup by Kremlin hardliners during August 1991.