A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
We tap dance down the highway.
There’s an exit. Who made me a pharoah?
Dare I gesture — or reach for a cigarette?
Shouldn’t I be on the banks of the Neva
in the city built by Peter on swamps
& the bones of the conscripted dead?
In Petersburg, we could gaze together
at the floating egg-white sky.
Drink tea or vodka with Akhmatova,
my second mother, who would say to me:
Joseph, if you want to write a long poem,
first you must come up with a rhythm—
But you know my story. Arrested at 23
for ‘decadence, modernism, failure
to finish school & social parasitism.’
Exile. To a snow-smothered village
in Archangel. Kerosene lamp, typewriter.
Shoveling manure. No—I did not lie
when I wrote, it was one of the best jobs.
We should visit that stubborn warrior,
Elena Bonner, Sakharov’s widow.
Even with a bum heart, she outlived us all.
She’ll know all the news. We’ll drink vodka,
then coffee. I’ll show you photographs:
my mother, my father. Then to Italy to see
the porticos & colonnades. Somewhere
I left behind a wife & daughter.
Copyright 2018 Joan Bauer.
Previously published in Transnational Literature (Australia). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky (1940 – 1996) was a Russian and American poet and essayist. Born in Leningrad, Brodsky was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972, settling in the United States with the help of W.H. Auden. Brodsky was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature “for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity”. He was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 1991. [bio adapted from Wikipedia]