After his divorce, the Postman
wanted to go where no one
would think to find him, where he’d be small

as a figure in a landscape postcard,
so he sent himself to Siberia,
found that it delivered –

a lonely land where wolves
still grieved in woods
and swans foretold the coming of the snow.

The first winter was the toughest:
the wind cut like paper, whispered through cracks,
insidious as gossip. He wrote

to his children; no letters
came back. His heart froze
like a beetroot

planted in black Russian soil.
But the ice chiselled away at him,
sculpted him into someone new:

no longer Michael the postman,
but Mikhail the farmer,
hauling sacks of feed instead of mail.

Spring brought him a girl; her Cyrillic
fell like flakes around him, melted on his tongue.
Twenty years on, his life is nearly complete,

but when Bewick’s swans leave to winter
in England’s mild and misty grey,
he thinks of his children,

their faces blurred,
like faces at a window
franked by English rain.

 

1st, The New Writer Prize for best single poem, 2013, judged by Helen Mort

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