KGB and Other Poems

©Igor Pomerantsev

Translated from Russian by Frank Williams

 

Chronicle of Current Events, No. 51, 1978

"КГБ та інші..." - Grani-T, Kyiv, 2009
"КГБ та інші..." - Grani-T, Kyiv, 2009

In August 1976 he was detained on the beach in Odessa. He was held for six days and questioned by KGB Lieutenant-Colonel V.P. MEN'SHIKOV and KGB Major V.N. MEL'GUNOV, who accused him of allowing his acquaintances to read copies of GULAG Archipelago, From Under The Rubble and Invitation To A Beheading, confiscated from his comrade Iosif ZISELS (CCE 44, 49).

POMERANTSEV rejected all charges as baseless and unproven. He refused to give evidence about his friends and acquaintances. At the end of the sixth day, POMERANTSEV was told he was under arrest and would be transported to Kiev, after which he was unexpectedly released. For all six days POMERANTSEV was lodged with his “interlocutors” in the Hotel New Moscow. 

Tweet Peter Pomerantsev 12.2.2022
Tweet Peter Pomerantsev 12.2.2022

In October 1977 officials of the Kiev UKGB interrogated no less than sixteen acquaintances of POMERANTSEV, in an effort to obtain testimony relating the charges listed above. Among those interrogated were: G. TOKAYUK (CCE 48), engineers T. KORCHAGINA and N. SAGALOVSKAYA, translator M. LEVINA, researcher of the Institute of Atomic Research Ya. BORODOVSKI, doctor L. SHEYNDLIN, linguist A. LESOVOY, patent officer V. KARMAZIN, music teacher M. NEZABITOVSKAYA, orchestra leader A. SMARICHEVSKAYA, student L. OLEINIK, musician of the Kiev Chamber Orchestra V. MATYUKHIN and I. POMERANTSEV'S mother R.I. POMERANTSEVA. Under interrogation, V. MATYUKHIN stated that POMERANTSEV circulated anti-soviet fabrications of a defamatory nature, such as that a creative people cannot realize their potential in the USSR.

In November 1977  Major MEL'GUNOV gave a formal warning to POMERANTSEV. The protocol listed circulating defamatory fabrications, keeping and circulating harmful literature, regular listening to hostile broadcasts and contacts with foreigners. POMERANTSEV refused to sign the protocol.

In November 1977  POMERANTSEV'S friends G. TOKAYUK (CCE 48 and current issue) and M. BELORUSETS (CCE 48) also received warnings. At the same time, KGB Major A.L. IZORGIN advised POMERANTSEV to emigrate. 

In August Kiev writer Igor POMERANTSEV (CCE 48) emigrated from the USSR.

 

 


Farewell. Don't look back. Look back!
Vasil Stus (1938-1985, camp punishment cell)

The poems a dialogue in a time grid of 40 years: those from the 70s are printed in bold, the others from 2008.

It's not a bad result, you know.
Just two out of a couple of dozen friends
cracked under questioning.
Valery Nikolayevich was good enough
to let me read their testimony.
Lara's first.
She was really just a girl who
liked clothes and hanging around with dealers.
They nabbed her for “speculation”
(article 154, I think).
Why ever did I lend her “bad books”?
Not her scene at all.
Then Mityukhin's.
I asked him later:
“So, did you shit yourself
or just flip out?”
He said: “What was I supposed to do, tell lies?”
Mityukhin? Scruples?
Totally ridiculous.
I never could figure it out: shit scared or just a wanker.
No, not a bad result at all.
Just two.
Other than that initial two dozen, though, it was sauve qui peut.

 

It grew dark all of a sudden.
I stood stock still behind a water main.
It was icy cold back there, and slippery.
But the tomcats never spotted me.
They reeked of garbage and cellar.
They were deep in serious conversation,
belching in turn.
What would they have done
if they had discovered me:
Insulted me? Beaten me up? Taken my money?

 

Incidentally, my mum, Galina Ivanovna,
simply refused to speak to them.
“People have only ever said nice things about my Igor.
At school, or university, or his work,
they always gave him a good report.
And you say all these nasty things about him.
I don't want to talk to you!”
A good thing his father wasn't alive.
He couldn't have taken this!

Strips of light. July.
The brightest strip
is breathing next me
on the divan.
On a finger map
Kiev
is somewhere by
Alexandria.

 

It was the only sincere thing
Vilen Pavlovich ever said:
“Your girlfriends are really something.”
I didn't ask which.
I wonder, how long had they bugged me?
Three months? Half a year?
Who'd come to my place during that time?
I can picture Vilen Pavlovich and Valery Nikolaevich
going back and forth over the tapes.
Did they sweat?
Get hot and bothered?
Make little grunting noises?

 

The morning he was arrested
the Major ordered
both volumes of War And Peace
brought to the cell,
so he'd know 
they had plenty of time.
But it was only in the morning 
he struck lucky: familiar voices,
French alternating with Russian,
Pierre's wheeze, Natasha's kiss.
What an idiot the Major was,
to use this to scare him,
but it was only that morning, 
and meanwhile...

 

I phoned my dad at work
and asked if I could watch tv.
It was time for the cartoons.
Dad said he was busy and, yes, I could watch.
I asked him:
“What are you busy doing?”
He answered:
“An interrogation, princess.”
I didn't understand,
but ran to turn on the tv.
Are you grown up now, little girl?
Your dad was interrogating me.

Late evening
in the grocery store
I saw them all
simultaneously and individually.
Harsh electric light
flooded their hollow cheeks,
alcoholic eyes,
the faces of well-practised killers.
Nearby, swaying like waterweed,
their drowsy children stood
on stick-thin legs;
their ugly wives,
all masks of powder and lipstick,
were beating up the salesgirls.
Whenever one of them
crossed the boundary of light,
my heart skipped a beat
and darted off into the gloom,
and I realised
that not to love them was simply not possible.

 

Grandmother was silent. Father was muttering.
Mother sniffling.
I kissed mummy's scarlet nails,
her slender silky knees,
the tip of her powdered nose.
The year was 1951.
Grandmother, holder of the Order of Glory,
had come to us in Chita,
so as to slip quietly
out of the ranks of the Communist Party.
Father, who was writing for a paper
called On The Alert,
didn't give his mother-in-law away.
Though he grumbled.
This could be the finish of them all.
My family could have been worse, in my opinion.

 

Boris Savelev
"КГБ та інші..." - Grani-T, Kyiv, 2009,  photo Boris Savelv

A forlorn patch of  rustle-filled forest. Weather had
not yet erased the name on the signboard: TSETSINO.
The place to bring – everyone knew – lovers for a roll
in the dry leaves. The place to lose – everyone knew – 
girls wearing a red beret or boots at cards. 
Everyone at school knew. 
There they yanked off a boot,
making the forest show crimson like a burn in the 
heaving, scorched, pungent with the scent of withered love, 
stumbling out of view, like this stump, numbing,
in a beret, tilted, aslant.

 

Alright, so they didn't twist my arms,
but they burnt Mark's door,
took Grisha out into a forest near Kiev
and fucked him over.
They kept calling Olga a whore,
and to prove their point
locked her up in a VD clinic with the prostitutes.
It was only with Geli they went too far
in the remand prison.
They refused treatment, refused treatment,
refused treatment, refused treatment,
until he died.

A ladybird
climbs up the window pane.
The pane is warm and clean,
because we're having an Indian summer.
The ladybird has the seasons mixed up.
How agile she is.
How brave she is, how insane.
I find it hard to tell,
which she has more of:
Courage or insanity.

 

One day Valery Nikolaevich
said something really touching.
He looked at a photo of Stravinsky
on the wall of my rented room,
and pronounced solemnly:
“Pasternak...”
During the search of Nadya's place,
a runty officer saw Akhmatova's picture,
and remarked knowingly:
“So, you're granny's Jewish!”

 

In the bath house, in August, in the tresses of water,
clutching a locker number tight in the memory,
they slosh across the floor – some with a white outline of briefs,
some with an outline of trunks,
some completely starkers – antisocial – boys and men.
For some reason the tan of one of them begins higher
on the left leg than on the right.
And then appears a guardian of the eternal snows,
a watchman of the dairy, in short, a man whose skin
from heel to pate was the epitome of pallor.
Something altered instantly in both bath house and poem.
The atmosphere thickens. The steam becomes drier.
Metaphors yield to action.
First somebody, almost in fun, smacks the stranger across the buttocks,
leaving a clear imprint of a palm.
The joke catches on, and soon to the splashing and laughter 
is added the happy sound of slapping.
Everybody takes turns and – depending on their upbringing -
strikes the Newcomer with either open palm, fist or a stick.
The children are especially eager.
The sound of splashing water mingles with the sound of splashing blood.
The poet (it's somehow awkward to use the first person in this context)
does not join in the sport of the suntanned,
but experiences a feeling of solidarity with them:
he didn't like the look of the Newcomer from the start.
The poet looks at the once snow white,
now leaden coloured, skin
and recalls the incandescent, infernal
inside of the telephone booth, from where last night
he stammered out his declaration of love.
To wrap things up, a homosexual comes over to
the Newcomer, lying still now, and brings the show to a close,
to general applause and cries of “Bravo!”.
The bathers casually finish washing, go out into the dressing room
and wrap up in fluffy white towels,
nicely setting off the tan on their faces and shoulders. 

 

Vilen Pavlovich told me straight:
“You're not a neurotic like Plyushch*.
We don't even need you diagnosed.
You're a normal intelligent person.
The only place you're going is a regular camp in Mordovia.”
It was such a relief to hear that.

*Leonid Plyushch, b. 1939, mathematician and dissident, arrested in 1972 and held in psychiatric hospitals. Emigrated following his release in 1976.

 

Although it's October,
I'm wearing just a jacket.
Yesterday they told me
something very bad.
The sun's out.
The children's faces are like the weather.
Same combination.
Other people are in coats or macs.
I see that,
but I'm still not cold.

I was reading a blog
in which an old acquaintance
(haven't seen her in thirty years)
was reminiscing:
“I remember how appalled I was to hear the flood of dissident remarks Igor came out with, not just i
n private, but where everybody could listen, in the corridors or the canteen at the Institute”.
I also recall our hero.
His nightly conversations with the knots in his stomach.
His ashen face in the mirror.
The waves of nausea.
No, the nervous system,
and everything else besides,
was abnormal.

 

Their prison term is
so long,
you begin to forget them,
and when somebody
finally
does reappear outside the zone,
you have this feeling of horror,
but soon, when you hear on the radio
they've been arrested again,
you relax
and have this feeling of bliss.

 

Evgen's mother died.
We went to the funeral.
Stayed on afterward for the wake.
How many of us were there?
Don't remember. Five?
Three? Including Evgen.
He wasn't there, of course.
But he had a cast-iron excuse:
He was in Mordovia.
Then Iosif's mother died.
We went,
but he, too, had to give it a miss.

During nights, so foggy,
you want to cut it with a knife,
barrack blocks loom out of the brown light.
From their fetid dormitories
comes a clanking and rattling,
bringing dreams of Kalashnikovs to some.
Hospitals loom,
where putty-faced patients and their putty-faced relatives
sit waiting in admissions.
A prison looms;
its team came first
in the regional judo contest.
Things loom
which you didn't see during the day.

 

Several days in a row they led me along a corridor for questioning.
I snatched a glance at their house publication up on a wall.
Couldn't really see what was in it.
“C'mon, move. Move.”
But in my heart I was chuckling.
It meant even these bastards
were made to write for the wall newspaper.
Pity I wasn't allowed a read.
What, I wonder, was the target
in their socialist competition?
I did manage to spy they had a crossword.
Did it have a professional orientation?

 

The deed is done
and arrest will follow
in a month or so.
But in the interval,
even though everything is already determined and predetermined,
out of habit he thinks,
weighs and calculates,
as if he still had
some kind
of choice.

 

Mykola “raped” a little girl.
He brought a cake. She ate it. And then he forced her to.
I'm curious, what's she doing now?
Raising grandsons?
But this is about something else.
When Mykola went on trial, I was already in Germany,
after being given political asylum.
I wrote to Yehudi Menuhin:
“In Kiev Mykola, a musician, even if not a great one, is on trial.'
Intervene. Amnesty International can confirm.”
And he did intervene!
Maybe there were some Ukrainian family “associations”
with those pioneers of holocaust – Gonta, Khmelnytsky -
wrapped in the mists of time.
Yes, he intervened, he truly did.
Bravo, maestro!

Bogdan Khmelnytsky (1595-1657), founder of Cossack state and Ukrainian national hero.
Ivan Gonta (?-1768), Cossack leader, organizer of notorious massacre of Jews, Poles and Ukrainian Uniates

 

The dog's muzzle 
is a centimeter from my lips.
If I say anything out loud,
it will bite my mouth off.
The dog is trembling with impatience.
Stay silent,
or take my chances?

Why Moisey did it, I don't know
I'm not a psychoanalyst.
At the end of perestroika Moisey
invited Valery Nikolayevich to a reading of his poetry.
Our Major was retired by this time.
I don't have anything against him.
When Vilen Pavlovich told me during the interrogation:
“We don't have any control over what happens in the camps,
anything could happen to you there...
I'm sorry”.
Valery Nikolaevich shook his head:
Vilen Pavlovich is pushing it a bit.
At least, that's how I read it at the time.
No, I mean something different.
OK, so he came to hear Moisey's poetry.
He even clapped. So what?
Catharsis? But we're not Greeks.
That makes Moisey a true Christian,
while I'm a grudge-bearing louse with a blood-sucking proboscis.
Is that it?

 

From the meaningless abstractions of the fields, 
flat December expanses seen from narrow trains,
plains so heavy the steel fastener
on the window blind tore off
under a motionless elbow, no, more likely
from the empty abstractions of forgotten songs
about fields, about plains, so that under that icy
and biting stare you cannot understand who, exactly,
they scared shitless, though nobody had more right
to chicken out, to tremble with fear,
to come out in a cold angry sweat,
than the plains at the lines about
not becoming just a memory at any price, -
to return to the house, to the oilskin tablecloth,
all grubby and sticky from wine stains,
claret, like rosebuds of kisses,
back to the satiny poplars in the yard
shedding their cotton fluff to the wind
so the flight would be soft and warm.
And do you remember, boy, you feared
the quarantine wards most,
their high walls, their drawbridges and
flaming torches, smoking, flickering,
and the glint of armor and the clatter of conversation?
You made it through, so, smile – you're home.
Try to stand. Breathe. Don't die!

 

In the kitchen at Mark's place
on the Day of the Universal Plague
or the Great Pandemic
or the Lesser February Cholera
we made up our own crossword.
“Luxurious accommodations”. Eight letters across.
(Plyushch)
“Town in Kostroma oblast”. Six letters down.
(Galich)
We laughed till we cried.
I really wanted to hand it in for publication in The People's Retribution.
They had to restrain me, physically.

Alexander Galich (1918-1977), songwriter, whose performances of his own work circulated on home-made tape recordings, so-called magnitizdat.

 

TO NADYA

Darling, the bookmark
you embroidered 
with a Ukrainian motif
when they locked you in the punishment cell
and which you gave me later
is in my notebook.
I want your name
to interweave like a Ukrainian motif
with these lines.
I want all my words
to echo your name.

 

Organizing a wedding during a time of plague
was completely stupid.
But I couldn't refuse my bride's parents.
They invited their friends to the restaurant
and drank our health.
There was a man with a camera, too – a wedding photographer.
But away at the back of the room I noticed
another photographer – uninvited.
I wonder, are the pictures still in the KGB archive?
And the audio tapes of my assignations?
Would I want to hear the sounds of the love we made
thirty years ago? I'm not certain.

KGB

In the back room of the little shop
next our building
it's cold and dank.
A saleswoman, who looks 
like a sugar loaf,
is dragging something heavy.
Vilen Pavlovich is looking out
the closed, painted-over window.
I'm standing facing the door,
at the sink,
and rinsing my face.
My wife comes rushing in.
I hear her voice through the sound of water:
“Vilen Pavlovich,
are you that short of office space?
Why are you talking to him here?”

 

This is what made me feel ashamed.
I had just got married and moved in with my wife's parents,
decent, respectable Jews.
Because of me
the KGB burst in at dawn, with witnesses,
and turned the place upside down.
The only thing they'd find would be
valuables, nothing else.
They'd bring charges, and not against me.
And these Jews had shown me nothing but kindness.
Esfir Isaevna told me:
“If you get a sausage from me in jail and
there's one cut, it means they've got 
Grisha, too. Two cuts means Mark as well.”
I felt really bad about it.
I had to split the country.

 

TO GRIGORIY T.

After midnight you come outside and immediately spot
two clots of night, in each of which
in the dim half-light
three men, not counting the driver, lurk silent.
You kick off from the asphalt floor of the city,
and the black clots, submarines of the night, glide after you,
not switching on their headlights. Your heart slowly tears loose
from the body, and slips in the opposite direction,
pretending to be a sea urchin or oyster.
And the more sinister this night-time voyage,
the sweeter will be the memory of it, but nevertheless
don't button up your raincoat, come and overnight with us if only one last time.

 

Unbelievable!
Whenever Vilen Pavlovich went out,
Valery Nikolaevich would lose interest in me,
reach for a book of chess problems
and solve them, chewing the end of his pencil.
That's who is responsible for the collapse of the USSR!

 

My wife read twenty or so of the poems and said: “It's not right, you know. Why haven't you written anything about granny Cilla? Have you forgotten the way she refused to let them into the house?” “Very well”, I said, “I'll write one now”.

My wife saw them from the window,
and could tell immediately who they were:
by the way they held their head,
their purposeful look,
the spring in their step.
She shouted:
“Granny, granny, they're coming for us!
What shall we do?”
The old lady was molding dumplings.
They rang the bell,
then started banging on the door.
The old lady said:
“We don't have to let strangers into the house.
Let them bang for a bit and then go away.”
When they'd gone,
the old lady popped the dumplings into the broth.

 

In our yard parents are happy
to let their children out to play, knowing that
in the window on the far right of the fourth floor
there sits a sniper, who has no equal.
The other yards also have their snipers,
but ours is way better:
firstly, his shoulder never leaves
the butt of his rifle, even at night;
secondly, he's conscientious
and always keeps his word;
thirdly, he is himself a father, of twins,
which means he knows very well
the most vulnerable points of a child's body.
Every holiday all the residents
chip in three rubles
to buy the sniper a modest gift:
a stuffed toy wild boar
or an African tribal ritual mask.
I was very proud that collecting the money,
choosing the gift and handing it over
were entrusted to my mother-in-law and my wife.

 

RONDEL (from G. Trakl)

The pure gold of days was melting,
clots of cerulean, crimson blush of sunset.
A shepherd's pipe trills in the garden,
crimson clots, cerulean sunset.
The pure gold of days was melting.

 

It happened in Riyadh.
At a gathering in a restaurant were
several European businessmen and financiers,
a progressive Saudi journalist
and a reporter called Patrick (aka Red Nose).
Everything was fine
until the Saudi intellectual remarked
that Hitler was a great guy: he had the Jews sussed out.
Tony kept on eating. Jean-Pierre said nothing. Colin nodded.
What about you, Patrick? Cat got your tongue?
And then the Irish drunk said:
“Gentlemen, unfortunately, I am obliged to depart
your in all respects most distinguished company,
because one of our number is a person
whose views on certain historical events
are not subject to debate”.
Well said, you old soak!
We could have done with a few like you in Kiev!!!

 

They ring the doorbell at six a.m.
“Telegram!”
Half awake,
and hopeful of slipping back into sleep again,
you mumble “Coming”,
pull on the first thing that comes to hand,
grope in your pocket for change
and open the door.
They come bursting in.
Falling for it (“Telegram!”) is what hurts the most
and your hot hand still clutches 
the change, sweaty all of a sudden,
and you almost burst into tears from mortification.

kgb

After seven years in the camps
Ivan used to start his letters to Lola (his wife):
“My dear old lady...”
And time passed, and they grew old and they went deaf.
So what if they grew old and went deaf?
Seven years, seven visits.
Conjugal?

 

In a photo taken before the arrest
Ivan is wearing a beret, Eugen a raincoat.
Those gray Chinese raincoats were in fashion in the sixties.
Wide-brimmed hats, long jackets,
carrying folders of their poems...

 

Oh, Lord,
you're a real hip dude, man!
I mean like totally cool!
The real deal! The ant's pants!
Never thought you had it in you!
I'm just a heap of shit, poems are a load of crap!
But you, man... I mean, too much, man.
Oh, Lord, I give thanks to you!
I kiss your heels! I lick the shell of your ear,
for not depriving me of memory!

 

Three weeks after Eugen was arrested,
Volodymir came round.
He asked me to come out onto the landing:
Afraid my room was bugged (he was right).
He was a careful man.
We went out. Volodymir was shaking.
It made me embarrassed and I said:
“Chilly today, isn't it?”
His voice was a dry rustle:
“You remember Eugen? They arrested him.”
Then he paused and asked:
“Any of the Ukrainians left in town?”
“Yes. Nadya got back from Mordovia a few days ago.”

 

“Another minute and my verse will freely flow” (A.S. Pushkin)
 – exactly so -
flow, flow, flow...
how does it go next?

 


MORNING LINES

This happens once every 24 hours:
at six o'clock, on the dot, dawn comes
and drives away the dreams.
The sky could be just as if
apricot trees were peeping in the window,
so you want to get up and walk arm in arm
with your girl around the deserted pristine town,
breathing in the apricot smell of the sky,
or
it could be looming, leaden
making you want to go away into your girl
and remember how you used to walk arm in arm
around the deserted pristine town
breathing in the apricot smell of the sky
and giving her, like a bunch of grapes,
transparent, resonant Ukrainian words.
Last night, for some reason, my nose bled,
and groping among the newspapers, their first pages
carrying pictures, in millions of copies, 
of jowly faces, fleshy comradely necks,
firm handshakes,
I grabbed a sheet of paper
scribbled over with my words and
pressed it to my nose.
It came out so beautifully:
the poet, eyelids blue with insomnia,
the bloodied draft
of his latest poem,
the Tokaji lips of the girl...
On the dot of six a bony little ray
tapped at the window, and I was pierced -
from temple to temple -
not so much by the thought
as the presentiment of the thought:
dawn has come.

 

At the time my elder brother
was a police detective.
Two generals called him in and said:
“Valentin, do something about your brother.”
“What can I do? He's with General Grigorenko now.” 
(He was lying.)
They flushed crimson as if slapped in the face.
Such sensitive souls, can you imagine?
The next day they kicked Valentin out of the cops.
Does that make my late brother a dissident?

Major General Petro Grigorenko (1907-1987), Red Army officer and dissident, victim of Soviet punitive psychiatry.

 

With Grigori, it all started in Paris
in the lobby of the Hotel Victoria (rue Tournefort).
The group leader said to him:
“You bastard, we've already had one jump ship,
and now you start showing up late. We'll teach you to bum around Paris!”
Grigori coolly brushed away the hand placed on his shoulder
and said, no less coolly:
“Just take it easy. I'm on the territory of a free country.”
I have a weak spot for losers, personally.
I still feel sorry for the group leader.

 

What was the most unpleasant?
Them picking me up on the beach in my trunks.
The first day I kept running from the interrogation to the toilet
every thirty minutes.
Vilen Pavlovich asked brightly:
“You got the clap or something?”

 

The day before I left
I saw Ivan (a different Ivan) by chance in a subway.
In the artificial light
his face looked like
a waxworks figure,
like a death mask,
and now it seems to me that we met
not down below the bustle of Kreshchatik,
but in some dank, clammy cellar,
or a horrible dream about a night
spent in a cemetery
among open graves.
In the dream Ivan pretended
not to recognize me.

 

In the middle of the seventies,
Long-legged and angular...
A. Kushner

I don't recall now, 
which of them asked about David Samoilov:
Vilen Pavlovich or Valery Nikolaevich.
I just shrugged,
but remembered how “Dezik”
loaded up my rucksack
with faint typescript copies
at a dacha near Moscow.
Were the seventies accursed?
Of course not. Greyish.
Rawish.

David Samoilov (1920-1990), prominent member of the generation of Soviet poets that came to prominence after World War Two.

 

Yes, I nearly forgot.
Esfir Isaevna
was preparing her daughter.
“When you're being questioned”,
she instructed,
“don't forget you're a nursing mother,
so excuse yourself, go over to one side
and start expressing the milk.”
You have to hand it to them,
Jews know how to diddle their kids...

 

At ballet school,
Natasha was nowhere near the star.
She was supple and gracious enough,
but was… if I can put it like this,
dietarily challenged.
She had to switch to the art academy,
where she shone.
All the same, what she learned
at the “school for little swans”
was enough to enable her to slip
through the crack the cops left in the courtroom door.
She sat there on her own among
the representatives of the toiling masses,
and when Iosif saw her,
alone amidst the toilers,
he immediately remembered
what happiness was.

 

On the eve on my departure, I read the poems which by a miracle had been brought out of the camp. Darling, it was your hand that had copied them. Darling, I cannot mention your name, though it sounds like hope, because they will come to you and take the letters away. There's one line I can't get out of my head – about somebody or something being inseparable “as an eye from a tear”. Darling, I have a country, and we are as inseparable as an eye and a tear. This line trickles down my cheek. This country has names I love: Natasha, Iosif, Grigori, Mark, Mykola, you!..

 

She wondered:
Put on eyeshadow or not.
And what about lipstick?
She didn't varnish her nails.
He couldn't see that
from the dock anyhow.
Then she decided she would.
Let them see
that after these past seven months
she looked even prettier,
even younger.
And later he, too, could remember
how pretty she was.

 

FIRST LETTER

They call, write, ask:
Have you written any poems, one at least?
What are they about, exactly?
I reply. I'm writing articles. About you,naturally.
It got so bad, I got a call from prison from a friend
who asked: “Tell me you've written one at least?”
I reply: All about you.
He pulls a face.
Come on. Get away.
Be serious.
Since when did poetry become a criteria of one's ability to survive?
Cunning buggers believe nothing except poetry.
All in all, it was a smart move leaving them behind
when the rusty buds of wire were in full bloom.
Getting your just deserts,
stay there, I shout at them,
since when?
It's all okay, all right.
Stubborn bastards,
even stood against the wall
still shout:
One at least?
How can anyone stand all that, I'm not made of steel either,
I, too, have the capacity to cry, yell,

We sat in the Palffy Palace restaurant,
out on the terrace, with a view of Prague castle.
We were a Great American Poet,
his delightful wife
and a lesser American poet.
The lesser said:
“We have a fascist regime now”.
The GAP's wife concurred;
“The President and his team have simply wiped the floor with us”.
I murmured in sympathy:
“I really do understand, you know.
I can just imagine what you had to do to give the FBI the slip.
Where will you ask for political asylum?
Here in Prague or in Paris? If I were you,
I'd choose Paris.”
There was a moment's silence.
The lesser broke it:
“Commercial fascism. Isn't that what you'd call
all those crummy kiosks and stalls
on Old Town Square?”
“Gentlemen”, I exclaimed brightly,
“if we're going to get all hung up on a blistering critique
of McDonalds and airplane meals,
may I suggest the serving staff join the discussion?”
The GAP coughed and said:
“Igor come and sit closer. I'm a bit deaf.
You've come out with some really original ideas,
and I'll give them some thought.”
 moved closer. The GAP asked:
“Allen's poetry, Gary's, Jack's,
all of us beats,
does it work in Russian translation?”
“You know, Michael, you have a poem about how in 1954
a bunch of GIs by the Spanish coast shot up a hundred whales,
just for the heck of it.”
“Yeah, Voznesensky liked that poem.”
“I do, too. Trouble is,
in my country they did that to people, and
did a more thorough job of it.”
“Right. That's something to think about.”



“To be honest, before coming here I re-read your poems,
and your friends'.
They're full of narcotics,  yells, screams, howls,
incredible from the perspective of acoustics,
and this is what I figured out: You were yelling,
both as individuals and as a pack,
because you fear death.
A person who is yelling is immortal.
You have the expression in English, too, don't you:
Dead silence?” 
“I'll give it some thought. I've never had this conversation before.”
Me neither.

kgb

Photos
BORIS SAVELEV (Born in Czernowitz, a freelance photographer) from the 70s
Milena Findeis, theater performance "KGB and other poems", Meridian Chernivtsi 2011

"Dangerously Free" performance of the independent theater laboratory in the framework of Meridian Chernivtsi 2011, based on "KGB and other poems", Igor Pomerantsev.

 

 

Photos theater performance "KGB and other poems", Meridian Chernivtsi 2011

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Tagesrandbild

Dunkeltiefrot

18.5.2022 Das Rot der Blüten dunkelt mit jedem Jahr ein wenig nach. Im Kriegsjahr 2022 erblüht die erste Knopse des Rhododendron am 86. Geburtstag von Alena Wagnerová.

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Januar 2022, aprilig

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