Night Drive--St. Petersburg, 1900 <i> (after Rilke)</i> , By Derek Mahon
Not drawn but flown by glistening mares
past silent, tomb-lit porticoes
and lamp-posts hung like chandeliers,
past granite palaces where a first
dawn-glow lightened the roofs, we burst
on to the windy Neva quays,
rumbling there in an anxious, thin
half-light neither of earth nor heaven,
leaving behind the unwoken, dark
woods of the Czar’s private park
protected from the risen breeze,
its statues fading, every gest-
ure frozen for ever in the past.
St. Petersburg ceased to exist,
disclosed that it had never been;
asked only peace now, as if one
long mad should find the knot untied
and watch, recovered and clear-eyed,
a fixed idea in its Byzantine,
varnished and adamantine shrine
spin off from the whirling mind
and vanish, leaving not a trace behind.
From “Derek Mahon: Selected Poems” (Penguin: $12). 1993 Reprinted by permission.