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Walking Next To Vladimir Putin || Lucian Mattison

Walking Next to Vladimir Putin


“The US says Kosovo is a unique case. But why is it so special?

This is not just double standards. It is primitive and straightforward

cynicism. You cannot change everything to suit your own interests.”


  •                               Vladimir Putin, March 18, 2014

He holds a champagne bottle

torch, diesel-soused kerchief

spilling out of the open mouth,

a dead goat’s tongue

aflame. Walk with me, he says.


We dream these streets

into being—Sevastopol,

Black Sea beacon, origin

in a ring of lesser ports. Carve

secants into the earth, reimagine

maps, permuting borders.


Didn’t he say it’s primitive—

seeing oneself as exceptional

when all are created equal

under God’s burning eye?


I watch twin suns rising like petrol

bombs on opposite horizons,

East and West, two eyes

enormous, traipsing sky

through Cold War smoke,

tear gas billows—their reflective

symmetry negating one another—

our virtues a city dragged

through other people’s rubble.


Two countries hold flames inches

from wicks, anticipate high noon,

so they can watch the fireworks

burst as citizens below take ash

on their tongues like snow.


Lucian Mattison is the author of “Peregrine Nation” (The Broadkill River Press, 2014) which won the 2014 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in Bodega, The Boiler, Everyday Genius, and Hobart, among others. He edits poetry for Green Briar Review and Barely South Review. Read more at