REQUIEM (EXCERPT) - John Luckey McCreery Poems


Poems » john luckey mccreery » requiem (excerpt)

In the fearful years of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months in prison
queues in Leningrad. One day somebody 'identified' me. Beside me, in the
queue, there was a woman with blue lips. She had, of course, never heard of
me; but she suddenly came out of that trance so common to us all and
whispered in my ear (everybody spoke in whispers there): "Can you describe
this?" And I said: "Yes, I can." And then something like the shadow of a
smile crossed what had once been her face.

1 April, 1957, Leningrad



  Again the hands of the clock are nearing
  The unforgettable hour. I see, hear, touch

  All of you: the cripple they had to support
  Painfully to the end of the line; the moribund;

  And the girl who would shake her beautiful head and
  Say: "I come here as if it were home."

  I should like to call you all by name,
  But they have lost the lists....

  I have woven for them a great shroud
  Out of the poor words I overheard them speak.

  I remember them always and everywhere,
  And if they shut my tormented mouth,

  Through which a hundred million of my people cry,
  Let them remember me also....

  And if in this country they should want
  To build me a monument

  I consent to that honour,
  But only on condition that they

  Erect it not on the sea-shore where I was born:
  My last links there were broken long ago,

  Nor by the stump in the Royal Gardens,
  Where an inconsolable young shade is seeking me,

  But here, where I stood for three hundred hours
  And where they never, never opened the doors for me

  Lest in blessed death I should forget
  The grinding scream of the Black Marias,

  The hideous clanging gate, the old
  Woman wailing like a wounded beast.

  And may the melting snow drop like tears
  From my motionless bronze eyelids,

  And the prison pigeons coo above me
  And the ships sail slowly down the Neva