Ulyanovsk: birth place of Lenin
eternal flame burning star pillar
fiery chasm continuing Stalin’s legacy
graveyard of the Volga.
War whoop and cry as his children
look on helplessly, in the middle
of the street, blow after hammer blow
indented ear, eyebrow folding inward
blood flowing on potatoes sold
on the road side. I bury my head
faux-fur lined collar in fear of being
next. Shapka pulled low, covering,
hiding, as though my face would
testify that I am different, not pure,
a foreigner with regime criticism
in my head the butcher’s blood.
Moscow: angry run-off of thawed
justice take to the streets to speak
against the growth of the archipelago
40,000 pages too many
have already been written. History
looped with bloody beaks, Gules
balding to the vulture that scavenges
sinister claw holding the imperial orb
this two-faced bird of prey putting on
a solid face for the world to see
while chaining its heroes to torture
for giving a fire to warm the darkness
timeless they’ve hung, but I have to believe
Heracles has come, that freedom has
come. An end to this violent cycle.
This poem combines an experience of violence, I witnessed in Russia with the protests and the long history of Russian gulags. The archipelago is a reference to Solzhenitsyn’s documentation of gulag survivors’ stories.
Michael DeMaranville is a modern nomad having lived in Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea and, currently, Qatar. His work has been featured in more than a dozen magazines across the globe.