Chicano Poet

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Poem By Osip Mandelstam

The Stalin Epigram

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boots-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
one for the groin, one for the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

(November 1933)

This poem, when word of it reached the authorities,
was the occasion of Mandelstam’s first arrest (1934).


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