Thursday Poem

The Writing of That Poem

I knew the poem on Stalin was coming. For so long Osip
was silent. But standing next to him I could feel the
tremors running through his body. Heat rose off his
head and darkness filled his eyes: the poems were rising
within him. Soon they would erupt. This was a natural
course and I never thought of stopping it any more than
I would have attempted to stop the coming season.
These poems would destroy our lives. But how could I
blame him? When a mountain explodes it does not say
“my lava will burn the village below.” Years ago he took
an oath, one hand on The Divine Comedy the other on a
blank piece of paper. Arrest, interrogation and whatever
followed were not his concern. And so we were villagers
living under the volcano.We knew the power of his
poetry, the strength of our straw huts.

by Aaron Rafi
from Surviving the Censor
Sarafim Editions, Hamilton Ontario, 2006

Osip Mandelstam