The rusting vehicle on blocks
in the grounds of the church
is a siglio: a small, unauthorised marvel,
because the vehicle is an American Jeep,
and the churchyard is deep in Siberia.

The marvel is how the jeep, the icon of the US military,
overcame the hostilities
of the Cold War between the US and the USSR,
and entered Russia, and how it defied
the impossible logistics of ten thousand kilometres
of snowed-in taiga forest with rail-only access,
and sat for years under the gaze of the Old Believers
as they went to and from their church of icons.

The two volumes of poetry, in Russian,
in the second hand bookshop in Irkutsk,
are a siglio: a small, unauthorised marvel,
because the books contain the poems
of Alexander Pushkin,
whose political poetry from exile in Siberia
was censored by the Tsar,
and who died for honour in a private duel
in 1837, at the same age as Byron died,
and the marvel is that in 2013 his words
of love and politics still stand for
the juxtaposition of passion and revolution
that travellers to Siberia seek in the cities,
founded by exiles and dissidents,
on the east–west rails.

© Sandra Renew 2013

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