Journalism In Verse

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Work and Days

in World by


Nine years in the Gulag, Little Weather Devil,
hid her wit

in the palm of her hand from the hangman’s rope
from the bullets aiming

to still it, her secret, stick-figure self not erased
for 115 pages.

Riding wolf-back, stubbornly wielding her shovel,
her avatar was not undone

by losing her coat, her last piece of bread,
her husband, her son.

She preserved, despite grief, Pushkin and Lermontov,
Hesiod and Latin axioms,

the whole damned world, distilled to pocketed
brightness, to a miracle

passed hand to hand until, stubbornly, like her body,
it was freed.

She responded to evil with something of quality,
her publisher marvels.

Stalin wanted to wipe her from the earth.
Instead, he is gone

while Olga M. Ranitskaya’s Little Weather Devil



A diary from a gulag meets evil with lightness [The New York Times]

Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, OR. Her poems have appeared here as well as in The New Verse News, Rattle, Redbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Mobius, What Rough Beast, and more.

Image of Olga M. Ranitskaya’s drawings via James Hill/New York Times, reproduced under Section 107 of the Copyright Act. 

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