Went to the meditation but only the snowed-in cardinals
heard me. Far from any port, we’re weighted by anchors
made of phantoms. A few minutes of blossoms looking
so very delightful until the tremors return. And notice how
the dolphins of Venice now hover like psychic blimps.
Multiple personalities shake off the idealism. You can’t always get
what the continental drift carries toward you.
The ex-Navy put on his festive flannel shirt on the happiest day
of his new normal, but no one showed up to greet him.
They were all hiding in their fur closets talking to ghosts of minks.
The doves pecked on tasteless ice cream.
Monuments to Saint Butcher in every city square.
I can always play 20 questions with you. Make it 96 questions.
Until the phone goes silent. “God no!” the default auto-response.
How laughable the lion-headed goats of our pasts. The sunlight paints
your brushes with orange and yellow and an alive martini.
Or did you look at the distant bridge across the majestic bay
and find yourself having wishes you couldn’t put anywhere?
They usually go away by themselves, don’t worry too much.
Just give it thirty or forty years. Just like the monuments.
But still we imagine a back room in our inner luxury hotels
where the prisoner called Integrity has been safe and sound
all this time, kept alive by the unprincipled genocidal brutes
out of gratitude for some act of courage he pulled
even before amoeba had evolved. We’re silly like that.
Welcome to your checkmate, mate. Welcome to your legacy. Well,
the earth will swallow these ideas whole, with some crunchy lava.
And out beyond, nothing much will change for the worse.
Even the empty parks are still pleasant to think about.
Blossoming with the sound of past years’ tennis balls.
Could we have imagined? Of course we could.

Click here to read Anton Yakovlev on the origin of the poem.


Image: “cardinal birding NC” by Laura Wolf, licensed under CC 2.0.

Anton Yakovlev:

“Shelter” ponders the experience of sheltering in place alone in a non-urban setting. It was written after several weeks of no face-to-face contact with anyone except the occasional wildlife. The poem leaps around in the associative manner in which the mind works when left completely to itself, ruminating on one’s own surroundings, the news, the significant cultural phenomena and anxieties of the time (“the dolphins of Venice”), as well as memories of things seen around the world in the days when traveling was possible (“Monuments to Saint Butcher in every city square”). Eventually, the poem opens up to the more general considerations of the human experience in the time of the pandemic, suspended between an uncertain future and a past that feels so different from the present moment.


Anton Yakovlev
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  1. I especially liked the line ‘where the prisoner Integrity has been kept safe and sound’ and ‘alive martini‘ (it took me a moment to realize the change from olive to alive. I liked that. I am not a martini drinker) and ‘even the empty parks are still pleasant to think about’ and ‘find yourself having wishes your couldn’t put anywhere’. Thanks. Blessings, Kate


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