Jo Colley

You and me, a mattress on the floor
and the old Soviet Union map
guarding one wall. Before and after,
I would stare at the expanse
try the place names in my head:
the romance of otherness,
letters back to front or altogether different.
We made love like comrades
to the Red Army Choir.

You tried to learn the language
listened to the tapes and practised for a while.
I liked the way your lips looked
when you said Spacebo and Niet.
We said we'd go there one day
take a steamship down the Volga
eat Red October chocolate
wearing our authentic Russian hats.

Glasnost was our downfall. You were gutted
as all across the map borders surfaced.
The reversal turned your whole world upside down.
Paranoid as Stalin, you dispatched me to the gulag
for crimes against the state, rewrote our history
with my image airbrushed out. Now you're holed up
in the dacha, hoarding resentment like a kulak
while I rub my mittened fingers in the cold.

Listen to a recording of Jo reading this poem:

Jo Colley

Jo Colley is a writer, with an interest in the digital presentation of text, especially poetry. She won the 2013 Read Our Lips Prize for Dream On, a poetry film and also makes podcasts.

Her latest collection, Bones of Birds was published by Smokestack in 2015. She is currently poet in residence for the Northern Poetry Library and a visiting artist for the Year in Beadnell project.

Comrades describes the end of a love affair, in which the personal and the political are intertwined.

Jo's previous Poem of the Month was Welcome to the Hotel Caledonia.

Visit Jo Colley's web site.

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Comrades © 2016 Jo Colley: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.