by Margot Lurie
Today, February 7, is the birthday of Regina Derieva, the Russian poet who died last December in Sweden. To mark the occasion, here is her “Tattooed Mnemosyne,” a poem that is as scathing a summary of Stalinism as one can imagine. In this translation by Daniel Weissbort, one sees her gift for startling imagery and her mind of winter (one that rivaled Stevens’):
To promulgate the courtyard, its cul-de-sac,
calling to mind, a crossroads, a maple tree.
Snow has not settled, but grows slack,
Like a wilting teen.
How much can be taught? For winter,
the home fronts secured, it’s about-face —
the world’s no prison;
it’s just a grave,
from which the carefree friend and brother
cannot be summoned.
But a stone-hearted man arose,
once most in demand.
He traversed life like a dotted line,
More than once had fits
cringed, for appearance’s sake,
as well as assuming this was the pits.
This wretched tattoo will not come off,
even if acid is smeared on.
Only, the air’s density declines the winter
of this endless era.