Stalin’s Desk

I have Stalin’s desk. It was smuggled
out of the Kremlin and a copy made.
The replica was poor but no one seemed
to worry. When I came upon the desk
crouched like a mausoleum in the dark
flank of the warehouse, squatting like a block

of concrete, I knew what it was at once.
He had been pictured at it with his uncle
Joe moustache and portrait smile. It must
be it, I thought. I would have paid far more.
The leather top was stained and slightly torn,
the keys were lost and there were scratches on

some of the edges, but it cleaned up well.
Ages of dirt flaked off in leaves until
the oak beamed through. I looked for bullet holes
and searched for secret drawers but there were none.
Nor could I find state papers hidden in
the lid, or stuck under the drawers. No one

had scored a death warrant into its hide.
Now it lies east-facing where a high
window throws a brittle square of light
over its back, and seems so natural, with
such a faint trace of accent, you’d believe
it had sat in that place for all its life.

Ross Cogan