I remember how you told me you live hand to mouth,
And I believed you, although you had a whole house
To keep your family in. You thought we were similar:
You doing occasional plastering jobs for some extra
Cash, while the money I had was all I had.

Those sites I worked on were very often my home.
I could never picture you sleeping on insulation foam.
Or sofas of any kind other than your own: not knowing
The anguish of where you will rest your head is an
Alien concept to those with their own bed.

I think of you sometimes now that I live off the land
In far way Siberia: when I see babushkas
Selling berries at the side of the road, or
When I am admiring my own crops as they grow,
Knowing those vegetables need to last several
Months, or maybe the year, depending on
How work goes.

The little we have is all that we have,
But somehow we make it last. I think of
You as I strip the last of the meat from the
Carcass of the deer my father-in-law brought home;
I think of you lost in your concept of poverty
Or as you would say: 'just making ends meet'.

Occasionally I feel what could be described as anger:
It is people exactly like you, who use all
The resources of the Earth, awarding yourself what you
Think are the basics of life. My old friend,
You have no clue, but I forgive you your
Self-indulgence, your petty materialism.

I would love to invite you to live off the land,
To hunt the deer. But you are busy, and I know
You would say the expense is too much,
You have to fork out for such and such,
The car needs a new something, your son
A new whatever, the next payment is due
On the thing you bought on the never never.

You will always be able to invent new sob stories
To justify your lack of charity, Funny that
Those who have the least to give usually give plenty.
We are nothing alike my friend, let me make that clear,
For the hungry I will cry my heart out,
For you onion tears.

About the Poet

Michael Oliver-Semenov is a professional poet and writer from Wales, the small but stoic country parked next to England. After serving as the first poet in residence for Blown, the British magazine for cultural intelligence, Michael emigrated to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia to live with his wife and translator Anastasia Semenova. When he is not growing vegetables at their family dacha in summer, or avoiding the wild Siberian hounds of winter, Michael is a freelance English teacher, editor and contributor to The Siberian Times. His forthcoming expose on Siberian life Sunbathing in Siberia: A marriage of East and West in Post-Soviet Russia is due for release in spring 2014 alongside his debut poetry collection The Elephant's Foot.