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Reading The Russians

July 28, 2002|Ruth Stone | From "In the Next Galaxy" by Ruth Stone (Copper Canyon Press: 102 pp., $20)

Of course they are gloomy;

they drink a lot of vodka.

It's a frost bitten country.

The women are trivialized,

used, thrown aside. It's a gambler's code.

This is not even subliminal.

All those Victorian translations

where I was transfixed:

lying stomach down on my bed

that summer of my fourteenth year,

a library book flat under my right thumb,

slant of sun moment by moment

across the window, my heart rushing

with the wolves, the exhausted horses,

the over-turned sleighs,

the cold veil of the Steppes.

And then reaching deep

into their Mongolian survival,

the harsh Cossack law, the saber;

the mud and stick quadrangles.

And the Ukraine, where the mammoths grazed,

the length of which the Arctic birds

crossed in early summer,

their undulating shadows blotting out the light;

or grasshoppers in clouds arose

as if from the shattering of meteors

rebounding in phosphorescent flashes;

where the sinews of the saber-toothed

and the white leopard were buried beneath

the slow accruing rubble and on top of that,

Chernobyl, and Gogol's nose.

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