Svetlana Turetskaya

USSR, with The Nut in it

October 25, 1917 and the place is Petrograd, Russia,
and the horse pulling my stagecoach is whipped
mercilessly all the way to the Mariinsky Theater

I’m wearing my red silk dress, his black swan soul,
my perfume is Le Bouquet de Catherine by Rallet

Tonight: two back-to-back ballets, The Nutcracker and Eros
Backstage: the Bolsheviks are preparing an uprising

on the Winter Palace and the temporary government is
paralyzed with dread. Poor prima ballerina Mathilde
Kschessinska. Lenin made her house his headquarters!

In the theater: an officer in a white uniform
sits down next to me, his fingers zap over his knee
like frightened doves getting shot inside a cage

Next year he will be undressed, his head smashed
with stones. The new government. The Red Terror

Dreadful. Exciting! The curtains are rising
and what’s next is coming in

Tchaikovsky overture shouts at the ballerinas to tie
their point shoes, tidy their dresses, get their act together

For Raskolnikov is swinging his hatchet—

It was as if his clothes got entangled
into the mechanism of the machinery
and started sucking him into it
, Dostoevsky whispered

              And then?
Just as the curtains went up
the most gigantic—boom!—shook the theater
It was the Bolsheviks’ uprising
We fired at the Winter Palace from the Cruiser Aurora!
They had it coming

              Do you think at that moment the USSR came about?
Yes, at that precise moment

SVETLANA TURETSKAYA grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the former USSR, before she immigrated to the United States. Her poetry and fiction can be found in The Florida Review, Blackbird, The Cortland Review, Quarterly West, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She works at the Stanford Humanities Center.

Read more by Svetlana Turetskaya:

Poem in Blackbird
Two poems in Diode
A short story in The Florida Review