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Joan E. Bauer: Exile in Gorky

They gather close, melded,

like titanium and iron,

in an upholstered chair.

Academician Sakharov, upright,

Elena Bonner, leaning hard

against him. Her face stained

with foreboding. His eyes steady.

Sakharov’s talent, she writes,

to finish things.


My talent, to make sure his manuscripts

are not lost in some prison cellar

in Lubyanka.

Hunger strikes, press conferences,

vigils. She stands in the snow,

her heart failing,

nitro in one hand,

documents in the other.

An old woman shakes a fist.

A crowd gathers to denounce her.

She demands a tin of coffee,

insists on her full ration,

even as they take her passport.

Planting matthiolas, gillyflowers, malva,

she waits—

Will he return?

Survive the hunger strike?

The force-feeding?

And when he returns,

gaunt, unbroken,

to the city of impenetrable clouds,

they ask—

Is this our fate?

To die here, forgotten?

Copyright 2011 Joan E. Bauer. First published in Jewish Currents. Reprinted by permission of the author.



Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, Moscow 1973. Photo by Murray Seeger.

One comment on “Joan E. Bauer: Exile in Gorky

  1. Charlie Brice
    February 27, 2017

    Thanks, Joan, for bringing this up again and for briniging it up so poetically. Your words are always a treat, but your history lessons are a pleasant bonus.

    Liked by 1 person

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