Pravda – a Found Poem

George Frederick Watts, A Sea Ghost , 1887
George Frederick Watts, A Sea Ghost , 1887

His skin, his blood was failing
One had the same feeling as before:
the grim knowledge, two lives
unknown rivers flowing, two hearts;
pieces, files, official papers
erupting from distant cabinets
rained down, aflame in a grim hour…

Heavy fog on the Black Sea,
Gas lights out in Moscow.

The other choice was to begin to notice
The speeches, the press, propaganda,
to have always been struck, exhumed
by ironies of histories, its fatal incisions,
invoking God’s help: Help us! –
such does the wall of God surround
intolerable village republics.

More at the palace gates
than peasants crushed by a revolt;
more than soldiers marching though,
but specters uttering his name as
provocation when a party know-how
(one of their own dissociates,
a triumph-and-monument minister)
walked around and around the mad man.

Far away.

They’d  fired upon a few during a storm
shouts swallowed by the squall
men, aspirating bloody foam,
dark stain of hand-picked sailors
covering the lower deck.
Shipwrecks could receive
some last revolutionaires;
it had been arranged before.

These were ignored, laughed at
no hands left to help sort out
the tangles of a year of terror.

Expect none by sea – stop
Three assassinated in Moscow – stop
He’s done breathing in a Kremlin apartment – stop.

They came when a bomb exploded
below a fretted archway.
They were nearby already, likely.

It’s Serge, one said,
recording the remains,
flesh bleeding on broken marble,
witness to the confused stare of a child
forsaken in the shadowy doorway
still in a nightgown.

Cheer up! he said to small and motherless
Alexandra and he sent a message
to the abbey when more small
causalities came forward.

I have been to Moscow and – stop
I have seen the Abbess – stop
She is of no ordinary vein
in her hooded habit
of pearly gray – stop
Oh, holy bosom of the motherland! – stop
She’s got beds for all! – stop.

Lips like red blood droplets on fresh snow –
I am the hero of heroes.

He tugged at the abbey bell,
was angered when it clanged,
mocking ringing, haunting him
the rattling of the ship
where they’d thrown their
officers overboard.

He’d heard them whispering
in the Black Sea fog
the dead – dredged up, dragged back
on a dark passage, wandering
ghosts at the palace gates.

It makes him sick to read about
one mad moment, one necessary misstep
in the paper – where is their power?
The ministers assemble in  the dark
They cackle without action.

Now an oldish man – an illiterate peasant
collects the pages of half-burned files
snowing upon his wheat fields
sailing in on crosswinds to this No Place –
another intolerable village republic.

Thoughtfully he puts pieces together
uniting the war torn pages, lives.

In his life’s winter yawn
he remembers a time when
many a young revolutionary
called himself a soviet.

He saves the papers of a comrade
celebrated in the Pravda,
all of them intact and stamped.
The dark haired boy in the photo
a sailor, or a spy perhaps
could be his own Alexi
who dreams always of Paris.


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