A poem about the women waiting outside Stalin's prison in Leningrad. We sang it last night at the Opera House, to music composed by Moya Henderson.
It's the horror of oppression without the hope of resurrection.
Once more the day of remembrance draws near.
I see, I hear, I feel you:
The one they almost had to drag at the end,
And the one who tramps her native land no more,
And the one who, tossing her beautiful head,
Said, “Coming here’s like coming home.”
I’d like to name them all by name,
But the list has been confiscated and is nowhere to
I have woven a wide mantle for them
From their meager, overheard words.
I will remember them always and everywhere,
I will never forget them no matter what comes.
And if they gag my exhausted mouth
Through which a hundred million scream,
Then may the people remember me
On the eve of my remembrance day.
And if ever in this country
They decide to erect a monument to me,
I consent to that honor
Under these conditions— that it stand
Neither by the sea, where I was born:
My last tie with the sea is broken,
Nor in the tsar’s garden near the cherished pine stump,
Where an inconsolable shade looks for me,
But here, where I stood for three hundred hours,
And where they never unbolted the doors for me.
This, lest in blissful death
I forget the rumbling of the Black Marias,
Forget how that detested door slammed shut
And an old woman howled like a wounded animal.
And may the melting snow stream like tears
From my motionless lids of bronze,
And a prison dove coo in the distance,
And the ships of the Neva sail calmly on.
From here. Trans. Judith Hemschemeyer