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from the November/December 2003 issue


to V. S.

but you are not the surrounding of such a one

but a stair in yourself where poverty is like skyglow:

oh ice-holes of illness! as if by someone

they were always directed:

with meaning! -

oh in everyone their distribution! -

and they are led in - to tear to pieces:

and so that in the tearing

as if in some manuscript:

what is more important than us

like a certain soul:

not ours - but in our name! -

as through gleams of light would rise:

to disappear

in a shining! -

and "all you all" I think more often:

"oh how can you bear till the end

all that happens

with backs and with clothes?"

I tear the paper: "for I too am not different":

and the ice-holes glimmer. . .

now here now there on the stair

only the cold glimmers - brighter than sunlessness


[V. S. -Varlaam Shalamov, author of essential works on the Gulag]

The poems here date from the extremely fruitful first decade of his activity as a Russian poet. They were written in Moscow, where he was employed in the Mayakovsky museum to organize exhibitions of the Russian avant-garde artists of the early years of the twentieth century. At this time, he was part of a Moscow "underground" of poets, musicians and artists, all living in poverty and supporting one another in their attempts to create an independent art. None of these poems appeared in print in the Soviet Union until the late 1980s.

-Peter France

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