I wrote this poem in St. Petersburg, Russia, after hearing an old Russian soldier play marches on his accordion in the square. On his wool coat, he had pinned dozens of military medals he had won fighting for the ideals of Mother Russia. Old Woolen Red Coverlet
Old Russian soldier
Proudly showed me
Medals of honor.
Symbols of his life’s ideals,
Lofty dreams, wrenched away by loftier dreams,
Fallen now with the flag and his pension.
He hates the bright colors of Levi and Nike.
McDonald’s makes him vomit.
The old man polishes a tarnished life,
Longs for significance, money to buy food,
And a sturdy bed.
To cover his bed,
He’ll pull an old woolen red coverlet
From musty mothballs,
Adorned with crude hammer and sickle,
Hand-embroidered by his dead wife’s thick hands.
He doesn’t mind the sickle’s sharp edge will cut him
When he rolls over in his bed.
The decorated soldier
Knows how to bandage a cut.
He knows wounds will give
His life honor.