She gave him sand from the Tyrrhenian Sea,
He sent her a present of sand from the shores of Lake Erie.
He dropped some grains of her sand on the edge of the lake,
But kept the others, it helped him remember her.
She mingled a bit of his sand with the verge of the sea,
But retained some grains in a tiny box because
They reminded her of him.
And this was happening everywhere in the world,
Whole deserts exchanged between Asia and Africa,
And people everywhere swopping seedlings and saplings,
Whole forests exchanged between Finland and Brazil.
Cat-lovers transplanted whiskers from their cats:
‘My cat has your cat’s whiskers and yours mine.
We think of each other much more often that way.’
I stood by the motorway watching the sand trucks pass,
I saw huge lorries transporting uprooted trees,
I saw vets’ ambulances speeding with mad blue lights
– The whiskers for the transplants.
My name is Vladimir Nikolaich:
Back indoors I switch on a radio I cannot understand,
I am in West Brompton, the news is in English here.
My Rosemary knows no Russian, I love her so much,
And she is in Kharkov switching on the radio
And comprehending nothing in the least
– Except that we exchanged for one another,
And think of each other very much indeed.
Ours was an act of the profoundest love.