To visit Russia was a long-delayed dream come true for me. I had wanted to visit since the mid 1970s. In 2008 I joined a working group, that was to convert an old shed into dormitories for a Christian retreat centre. One of my jobs was to creosote high walls on a rickety wooden ladder. Even though I do not relish heights, I did what I was asked to do. Besides, it gave me a panoramic view of the countryside.
Hesitant, I ascend a home-made wooden ladder,
creosote log gable ends, spy ship-wrecked shacks,
marooned in overgrown, tidal grassy plots;
behind imposing metal gates a hidden harvest:
profuse produce, fruit & vegetables
jostle sunflowers flowers for space,
a passionate palette of cultivated colours.
In a neighbouring garden, trees shade
benches & tables, people exchange
Slavic conversations & picnicked lunch.
Occasional glances tossed in my direction
Down car-free, rural Russian country lanes
children safely cycle, racing each other,
steering around large, rain-filled potholes.
Will they later wander hungrily homeward,
push open squeaky, wooden garden gates,
welcomed by sour scented, freshly baked bread:
it’s incense blessing the evening air.
Beds embrace their sun-warmed, weary limbs,
adventure-exhausted children slumber,
observed by kindly Byzantine, iconic angels.
Heavenly hosts ascend, descend lofty ladders,
sloppily spilling hope from paint-cans,
scattering hundredfold signs & wonders:
gold stars blanket dark, yearning skies,
drab rural poverty brightened, blessed;
poignant Byzantine chant thunder-rumbles,
minor-chord melodies scaffold wondrous words:
“Behold! I am making all things new!”