We memorized poems
to pass them on,
past the strident winds
out of the Kremlin.
When I walk the avenue
lined with our history,
I trust you to guard
the ashes I can’t claim.
My friends, now in corners
unknown, memories enfold us
in the raw weather of our release.
Dank cells offer only blank prospects,
now, a full moon illuminates your path,
promise opens out to a peaceful sea.
Remember metal on metal at dawn,
the thud and crunch of boots,
shouts, and cries of the tortured.
Black Marias careened with human loads,
we consoled each other, understanding
that Russian speech was our homeland.
Delirium thrived; we walked by
the frozen grins of corpses,
chains finally unfastened.
Proud Russia writhed under jackboots,
I won’t allow emotion now,
a dark shroud protects our memories.
I remember your words as I do your faces,
There will be new sorrows, but I will
remember our time through them all.
If there is to be a monument,
place it in front of the steel doors
where I stood for hundreds of hours,
where an old woman’s cries echoed
through us and no one slid back the bolt.
Escaped, the Russian word will last forever.