Iowa Writes

LUCY MORRIS
AT SPb (or St. Petersburg)


At the center of the park without a name stands a circular marble fountain, a large structure elaborate by the standards of other cities but considered of little note here.  I sit on one of the black iron benches near a street named either for the Italian restaurant on the corner (its cream sauces are made with sour cream, its focaccia from the dough of black bread) or for the Italian architect whose bust stands, forgotten, in a nearby thicket of bushes.  I am not certain what time it is, afternoon or perhaps evening, because I've left at home the phone that tells me the time—a habit I've recently developed, here in a city where no one knows me—and the pale blue light persists until long after I've gone to bed.

At the center of the park without a name stands a circular marble fountain, a large structure elaborate by the standards of other cities but considered of little note here.  I sit on one of the black iron benches near a street named either for the Italian restaurant on the corner (its cream sauces are made with sour cream, its focaccia from the dough of black bread) or for the Italian architect whose bust stands, forgotten, in a nearby thicket of bushes.  I am not certain what time it is, afternoon or perhaps evening, because I've left at home the phone that tells me the time—a habit I've recently developed, here in a city where no one knows me—and the pale blue light persists until long after I've gone to bed.
        Because I am unknown here, there has been no one to remind me that today is Scarlet Sails, the holiday celebrated here on the summer equinox, the day when school lets out and the shared mania resulting from eighty days of diminishing darkness gives way to a broad permissiveness, to the sense that rules are, on this day only, supposed to go unobserved.
        It must be at least three, because school has let out: here are a pack of young men whose wide-brimmed blue caps and crisp white shirts reveal them to be recruits to the state security organs, or maybe a branch of the military.  They jostle each other around the edge of the fountain, raise their hands in threat of pushing each other in.  Suddenly, a series of shouts, a line of blue-capped heads swivelling.  A boy standing on the edge of the fountain has produced a plastic bottle that he tips downward, releasing an arc of blue liquid straight into the fountain: dish detergent.  The spouts of water continue to spew, impervious to the new element in the mix, and the marble pool fills with white bubbles that after some minutes lap over the edges.
        I produce my camera to take a photograph, but later, the bubbles will appear on film like the crests of waves, or packs of snow, or some white matter that, although I couldn't explain why, is somehow easier to fathom than the combination of soap and water.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


LUCY MORRIS

Lucy Morris is an Iowa Arts Fellow in the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program.  She previously worked as a Russian translator and her work has appeared in This Recording and Babel: A Translation Journal.

This page was first displayed
on May 23, 2014

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