The Blessing of the Neva

Sarah Crossland

Every year at Epiphany, the nobles
assembled in shubas and pearls
to watch the clergy saw a rod of ice
from the riverbank. What comfort
they took in the water passing under—
that the coming melt
would once again send ships
to sea with tar and rhubarb
and lumber.

From the windows of the Winter
Palace, we could hear the eel traps
keening with their catch. All afternoon,
tea-sellers miraged the streets—
steam spilling, heaven-
seeking, from their tents.
And it was ordinary, that year,
when the artillery fired blanks,
and the glass hail panicking
the crowd vanished
where it landed,
and there was no hail,
but only the prosody of sleet.