Mandelstam

mandelstam-1934

He picked at the scab and he wrote till he bled.
He’d never belonged and he knew that he wouldn’t –
a Pole and a Jew and a Methodist couldn’t.
He knew that his verses would make them see red
and yet he decided poetic voice shouldn’t
respond to the Terror with paeans instead.

So Sorbonne and Heidelberg memories became,
no more would he serenade Saimaa’s fair maiden,
Byzantium’s dome on the archangels laden
no longer the strictures of metre enflame,
nor Admiralty’s tower horizon’s line straighten.
Now telephone’s ring would his restless sleep claim.

Unflinching, the monster he fearlessly fed,
he started with Lenin, October’s time-server,
he knew what was coming with Bolsheviks’ fervour.
At first to Voronezh his pricking him led
but worms pulled on roaches of Ossete observer,
and Gulag now beckoned. Then poet was dead.

Rupert Moreton

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