The Russian Poet Prepares for the Postseason

Every day the boots fall like hammers on the steps.

Twice daily, if I am lucky,

There follows the clack of a gruel-filled tin plate

Sliding through the blinking grate.

If I am unlucky, someone upstairs is curious.

Come along, give us some answers.

Elsewhere, doors open and shut, shuffling feet between two pairs of goosesteppers,

A steady stream of clowns, comedians, poets and hacks.

They come, they go.

In between, they wait.

I am told, by the taps on the drainpipe, that some of you have waited.

Six years! Twelve years! Sixty-five, even!

Waiting, with the dank water rotting your shoes, the soles of your feet,

As the puffed-up brayers watch their tanks parade through the square.

I have waited as well, through three-quarters of a century,

Watching the gray walls harshly until I can bore right through them,

And force a sunset to curl into this tight room

To turn my bones from white to red.

They killed me a thousand times,

With vermin, with disease, with fists, knives, and a lonely bullet.

They killed me with my best friends,

Whispering beside me while writing down my words.

Words that should dart through the reeds like a dragonfly!

Instead, pinned and broken, ruined by thick tongues.

Today, though, I heard the tanks growl and cough, and then stop.

I heard the fat boots fleeing down the corridors.

I heard the doors swinging open, and hesitant steps

Turned into a sibilant ballet.

And I heard this door creak and open, and saw a thousand motes

Dancing in the shaft of an unseen light.

I saw the hands, hard and rough, bruised and bloody,

Waving toward me like clouds.

Come out! Come up! Something glorious is happening!

And the tattered rags of a thousand waifs

Billow behind them like flags as they rush to the surface,

Scattering their glee.

I shuffle my clicking bones to the bottom of the steps,

And my upward gaze dissolves in the promise of the September sky.

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