You should have been drilling me on Russian syntax but instead
we distracted ourselves and talked about your life in Soviet Russia.
It was as if our ages and roles had reversed, you no longer the teacher
instructing me but I instructing you, but I also became the young naive boy
and you the wise old woman, the one who did have a sense of history
and as I talked of all the possibilities a young woman should enjoy,
would enjoy in a free Russia, that a young woman with charm and
intelligence should be able to fulfill all her dreams and you just laughed,
oh how you laughed, yes, you said, how wonderful that sounds, how
true it is— for you, in America, but this is Russia, Soviet Russia.
When I told you that Russia was changing, that now so much is possible
you smiled and said maybe—and when I got carried away with all
you could achieve (falling in love with you or at least the myth of you)
you suggested that I must study my Russian to understand Russia
I must read Russian and speak Russian and you gave me some
of your favorite poems to translate so that I would understand Russia
and I did translate them but they were of the past and I was talking
about the future, and when I talked of the future you just smiled,
and when I got angry at the Soviet Russia of the present you just laughed,
what laughter you had at my anger, what joy my anger gave you,
you may be right, you laughed with tears
in your eyes, but this is the only society I know.
I never understood whether your tears
were for my simplicity, or
for your future.