In Soviet Georgia, I feel linguistic shock.
At first assuming residents speak Russian,
I say Nyet, not Ara, igniting discussion
of Moscow’s nagging, Russifying clock
alarms, as predictable as tick and tock.
Zviad says that now the constitution
requires Russian for higher education—
His dissident friends shout Ara! Ara! and mock.

My heartbeats speed in concert with their rage
fueling widespread rioting. Their nerve
still vital, more than a century in the cage
of Russian rule. Ara! They will preserve
the mother tongue—as precious as their blood.
They win this time and plan to win for good.


Russian Nyet: Нет (No)
Georgian Ara: არა (No)

Note: Georgia thwarted two major Moscow efforts in the late 1970s, and it was the first soviet republic to secede from the USSR. Zviad Gamsakurdia, the leading dissident and my colleague at Tbilisi State University, was arrested soon after the riots of April 1977.

Ralph C. La Rosa was a Senior Lecturer in the USSR, Tbilisi State University, SSR of Georgia. His work has been published on line and in print, including the chapbook, Sonnet Stanzas and full-length Ghost Trees.

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6 Responses

  1. Michael Dashiell

    As an unworldly American, I didn’t quite grasp this particular address of a Russian problem, but what I did understand I enjoyed.

  2. Joe Tessitore

    Very timely, this, as we “fight” here in the States to preserve or destroy our southern border.

    Over 31% of our voting-eligible population must be provided with non-English ballots; more than 61 million people.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    How ironic that “The Bear” does not require Communism to be so overbearing. Russia, with or without the institution of the State Farm, is not a good neighbor.

      • C.B. Anderson

        It’s very cool for anyone who has seen the advertisements on TV.
        You should know, Joe, that you and I are birds of a feather in many respects. As it happens, I am older than you, but only by a couple of years.

        The world as we know it rejoices
        for sexagenarian voices.

  4. Joe Tessitore

    Off we fly!

    Wrinkled, grey and in decline;
    gone the youth that once was mine.
    Witless and devoid of rhyme,
    I am no longer in my prime.

    Beauty that I do not see;
    subtleties now lost on me;
    clouds obscure the setting sun –
    I shuffle where I used to run.

    Memories of dancing verse;
    jumbled thoughts, the aged’s curse.
    Not so strong as it was then,
    my trembling hand lays down the pen.


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