She descends from en-suite and the balcony-shops,
sways down the stairway, leather-mini concealing,
sometimes revealing, lace stocking-tops;
carries her bruises where nobody sees.
In the hub of the foyer the faces are probing,
sharp as the glare of the night-patrol’s lamps,
as she sprinkles a vapour of perfume around them.
Where has she been? What has she seen?
Edge ever nearer; want her but fear her.
From the shelters and hides of their devalued lives
the other girls know what she carries inside;
science degree; career that tumbled when the
foundations supporting the Motherland crumbled.
The Westerner sits and weighs up the scene,
wealthy vibrations of pleasure and ease.
”Are you looking for fun?” almost a prayer,
crouching before him, hands on his knees;
smouldering eyes hide the pleading inside;
bleak deserts of poverty stretching before her,
murk of the tenement, queuing and crying,
pauper-line selling, pauper-line buying.
”How much?” he demands. Heart skips a beat; will he
be the one to be swept off his feet? Will he
whisk her away? New York maybe? Somewhere D.C.?
”Two-hundred,” she blurts, ”American-bills…”
She suddenly chills. Pitiless tips of cruel
icebergs drift-in from the Muscovite mist
to rip-off the fees she must squeeze from
the floating unfaithful who crawl through her knees.
”Too dear,” he waves her away.
“It’s me!” She’s crying inside. “It’s me – every-
man’s bride. What am I worth?” she wonders aloud.
“Seventy-five,” he replies, “one of the crowd.”
She rises before him, standing head bowed,
defeated, not cowed. The girls turn away,
back to their chat. At the bar, double
Scotch-on-the-rocks is served to a rat.