Posts Tagged ‘Russia’




We dreamed of revolution.

What came to Russia was terror,

terror that left us voiceless,

faceless, betrayed.

Blood in the streets.

Blood splattered on boots.

Blood that stank like blood.


I stood seventeen months

in prison lines three hundred women long,

waited to plead with the hangman

for my son. Seventeen months

I listened to the scrape

of the iron key that never

opened the lock.


Leave, said my friends

as they fled our land,

Leave Russia forever, they said.


But I could no more leave

the birches and pines,

the high mountains and endless steppes,

no, I could no more leave

the Russian people

than I could leave my own skin.


The government called me

an anachronism. They snarled,

“half nun, half whore.” They claimed

I contributed nothing to communism.

Burned my books. Forbid me

to publish more.


They killed my ex-husband.

My next husband, too.

They claimed intelligence

was a sin.


But when we’re silenced,

that’s the summons for our voice to grow,

and I went from the voice

of one woman wanting

to the voice of over

a hundred million mouths screaming,

screaming for freedom, for justice, for life.


They thought that by corseting my words

they could contain them. But they thought wrong.

Now, I whisper poems into the ears of my friends

and my words travel on, become living poems,

poems that throng in the streets.

Poems that stand in line and speak

to the women with blue lips who wail.

Poems that turn into ribbons

that flutter beyond the butcher’s reach.

Poems that slip beneath locked doors

that speak of suffering, futile war.


Now I know what art is for.



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There are cliffs inside me.

Every day I run to  the edge

and hurl myself into the sea.

I love the fall, the salt.


“You shame us,” they said.

“Poems are nonsense,” they said.

“How badly,” they said,

“you’ve been brought up.”


But I am the one who makes baskets

of nettles. And I am the one

found by the lyre. I am the one

who walks rooftops in moonlight.


Let others wear a corset,

a bodice, two skirts and a cap to the beach

where they do nothing more than tiptoe on the shore,

I am the one who runs naked


beneath my thin dress to swim

in the Black Sea for hours.

And I am the blood of Ghengis Khan.

I am Russian to the core.


I am birch and green parks and pines,

and Russia’s endless steppes,

and I am the Russian people themselves

who ask questions of life and death.


They call me a decadent Madonna.

They call me half nun, half whore.

Yes. I was born to be an unmasker.

I was born not to be servant, but master.


But this is the hour before the dawn.

Can you smell it? Blood in the street.

The shadow of the future is thrown

long before it arrives. And in all of Russia,


there is nowhere to hide.







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