Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
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
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,
Will he return?
Survive the hunger strike?
And when he returns,
to the city of impenetrable clouds,
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.