Reflections in Kiev

I. Glass

Tunnels of the metro turn train windows into mirrors,
light inside, outside dark giving back to my gaze 
the reflection of a wrinkle-faced woman
in the seat I surrendered to her, 
a basket of sad green apples on her lap.  
Two thin girls -- one in sleeveless blue shirt, short black skirt,
long blond hair, brown roots, holding hands
with a raven-haired beauty with pale blue eyes
and lips sticked in crimson, 
dangling between the knees of each nymphet
a plastic bag bearing the photograph of a bare-chested man
clutching a would-be supermodel on a beach.
Beside the girls, a woman, a mother, a natural dirty blonde, 
hair cropped close for summer, meeting no one's gaze,
not even mine, a green-eyed toddler on her lap 
staring straight at the real me, not the me in the window,
and perhaps she reads my wonderings:
     What it would be like to be her father,
     and where is he now, somewhere in Poland on business?
What if I told the mother she looks like someone
I once fell in love with -- and why is it
the truth often sounds like a cheap pickup line?
A sleepy boy -- in sweatpants and a t-shirt with a
cartoon duck in sunglasses, the duck face down on the sand
beneath the admonition SUN YOUR BUNS,
a cap that says California, USA -- lets his eyes flutter shut.
Part of me wants to tell him, That's me, I'm from California,
sort of, or at least I know that corner of the continent
where the sand meets the sea, and I lived there and I loved it 
and I hated it and I left it and I woke up here, tell him that 
I find myself transfixed by my own face among these others,
by my thin arm clutching the bar above my head for support
when the train stops or starts, find myself asking the reflections,
his and the girls' and the child's and the mother's,
Where will this train take us?

II.  Water

I am not concerned with avoiding the soupy mud
the summer rain has made of the lane that begins at a parking lot
between two cracked and gray buildings of flats
and, after running potholed between gardens and greenhouses
and little brick dachas where curious dogs bark and slaver,
sometimes chase -- that road takes me to fields
of corn, beets, potatoes, beans.
I am not concerned with the dark splashes
sent up my calves and thighs by the fall
of my running-shoed feet into the muck of this road,
assume that these shoes
made in Korea and purchased in a strip mall in Illinois
in a town named after a lake in Switzerland,
and the legs of the runner in them (legs that remember
that plot of Illinois before the strip mall, red clay in Georgia,
the streets of Baltimore, the surf of the cove
at the end of my road during my Kalifornia dream)
will clean up just fine in the shower that is always cold
and always welcome at the conclusion
of one of these runs but otherwise perhaps not.
Still, to my mind, we learn to adapt.
And then the fields:  the smell of wet earth
on the wind of early evening, occasional scarf-headed figures 
bent at the waist and arms reaching down 
among the shoots they have planted;
the ruts on the periphery left by the tires of trucks and tractors, 
filled with the water from the afternoon rain
which has come and gone and made way 
for a long summer evening of blue skies and white clouds,
their bellies trimmed with gray.  
And there, fifty yards (I mean meters) distant, 
in a puddle I know to be brown water,
a perfect mirror:  the blue and the white and the gray
caught in reflection, wind seldom rippling the placid surface,
and me wondering, me walking closer, asking myself,
what if I stepped through that mirror, 
what kind of world do I find on the other side, 
what kind of people, what kind of sky,
at the edge of the water, realizing, 
I have stepped through.
I am in that world.  
Where do I go from here?

               Summer 1994, Lutsk-Kiev

Steven Boyd Saum