After Exile

(Osip)

Original Text: 

Surviving the Censor: The Unspoken Words of Osip Mandelstam, ed. Allan Briesmaster (Hamilton, Ontario: Seraphim Editions, 2006): 46.

“So this was my punishment, to be a wet nurse for a
stillborn freedom.”
1And so we returned to the promise that was never given,
2returned with our hands in shackles and our pockets filled
3with poems.
4We sifted through the language of hunger devouring the
5words, bread, and cabbage, shuffling our feet in long lines
6and around clerks who remained motionless.
7Wherever we walked we searched for a grave: as someone
8said, “You entered the desert searching for sand.”
9Then the silence came and we were invalids unable to
10move in the world. The hours wasted away.We waited for a
11knock on the door, for my heart to stop or insanity to
12sully my verse.
13Every night we heard the pounding of nails. They were
14building our future. And like all condemned people we
15witnessed the construction of our death.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2012
Form: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright © Rafi Aaron 2006. Published by permission of the poet and Seraphim Editions.