Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sharon Olds

Leningrad Cemetery, Winter of 1941

That winter, the dead could not be buried.
The ground was frozen, the gravediggers weak from hunger,
the coffin wood used for fuel. So they were covered with
something
and taken on a child’s sled to a cemetery
in the sub-zero air. They lay on the soil,
some of them wrapped in dark cloth
bound with rope like the tree’s ball of roots
when it waits to be planted; others wound in sheets,
their pale, gauze, tapered shapes
stiff as cocoons that will split down the center
when the new life inside is prepared;
but most lay like corpses, their coverings
coming undone, naked calves
hard as corded wood spilling
from under a cloak, a hand reaching out
with no sign of peace, wanting to come back
even to the bread made of glue and sawdust,
even to the icy winter and the siege.

2 comments:

Glamourpuss said...

When in St Petersburg, I insisted on seeing the memorial, and was driven the length of the city by a taxi driver whose English was as fluent as my Russian. Nevertheless, we debated world politics (Him: 'Bush?' Puss: Sucking teeth and shaking head. Him: Nodding sagely), and he parked, took my hand, led me across the busy street adn smoked a cigarette while I wept, so moving is the monument to the siege. When I was done, he took my hand again, smiling comfortingly, and drove me back to the hotel.

Puss

August said...

What a touching story, Puss. I don't know how many times I've had those kind of gestural forms of communication with taxi drivers. It is always those small encounters that leave me touched by a place and its people.

I have always wanted to visit St. Petersburg. So much of its history is bottled up inside of me. Truthfully, it is the only city I'm afraid to visit without knowing the language.

But what a language. I could listen to it with my eyes closed and just swim inside it.