Every City Knowing Itself as the City of Lovers

by Sarah-Jane Abate

Here in Yaroslavl when lovers are in love
they close a padlock around the rail keeping them from the river
               and toss the key in.

Standing on the embankment, I can barely see the water
               for the locks

I do not know the word for love.
I have learned only the essentials
                       How are you
                               I (am) hungry
       not wanting to be
              burdened down.


Here in Russia they sell locks
       just for lovers
               Names scratched in
                      Olga u Denis
                      02.09. 2011

The babushki walk along the rails and proclaim the love they find.
                Olga    Denis  Alex  Maria KirrelNatasha until the locks
                are too close together
                to read anymore.


Here in Russia I don’t think of you at all.

but I don’t think of anyone else,

so I guess that’s something.


The city cuts the locks off every year, there are so many.

But the city keeps them
       all of them.


I wonder if anyone changes their mind
       jumps the railing
       the handles of the locks digging into the palms of their hands as they vault over

       if anyone swims out after the key

The keys by now having been swallowed by fish.

While the old women read the locks
The old men fish
       there every day I am
       casting his line off the edge
               of the green riverfront hotel
       looking for an old love
               a reminder of purpose

       or maybe just dinner.


Here in Russia I don’t know what to want.

I never see lovers by the river during the day.
I see them kiss passionately in the streets, on benches, in parks. Their hands
       like rivers.

In Russia I behave myself. I take pictures but touch nothing and no one.


The keys given over to the city. The city
       hoards them.

The fishermen eating metal for dinner
       no teeth left.


You lock up the river
and throw your love in.

Sarah-Jane Abate is a junior creative writing major from Susquehanna University. She writes both fiction and poetry, and enjoys writing about places she is from and has been. She is from Montrose, a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. Recently, she was lucky enough to travel to Russia, which was an irreplaceable experience, although there were regrettably less bears than she had hoped for.

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