On a Street with Two Names Before the Century Turned

Walking city streets with signage
in Finnish and Swedish,
two hundred klicks from Russia,
August sun beating down,
dark nights a memory,
out of a bar a man reeling,
gesticulating, not happy
with the bright light

yells and points our way.
A well-dressed woman
takes his arm, calms him down,
looks at us. In perfect English—
This is not the way Finns are,
apologizing for actions
of a man on a cobbled street

in downtown Helsinki.
We follow the Esplanade
to South Harbor, a summer market
with vendors in colorful attire,
including Roma, long skirts
billowing in a warm breeze,
flip phones in hand, selling
flowers, cheese, hand knitted socks,

leather goods, fish, vegetables.
I stop at a flower vendor, order
a bouquet for our wedding
the next day. On a Friday the 13th,
a magistrate conducts a ceremony
in Finnish, a witness snaps photos,

then into our own bright light
down the Esplanade
hand in hand to Kosmos,
a Russian restaurant
on Kalevankatu/Kalevagatan 3,
with a table for two, champagne,
fresh bouquet of white roses.

Marc Swan