Photo of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family, who were murdered by communistsPoetry on Communism’s Crimes in Europe by Leo Yankevich The Society November 16, 2017 Culture, Deconstructing Communism, Poetry 13 Comments Tikkun Olam* His mouth agape, as though still asking questions, the Tsar lies at the end of his long reign. (Blue lips almost struggle to explain, caught in the halfway realm of last expressions.) The Empress sprawls, hands crossing her stained bodice. Behind her rest the bayoneted heirs, blood in pools around their jewelled stares. Yurovsky stands above the heap of bodies. A Chekist* practiced in the art of killing, he commends his men as gun smoke settles. Their trigger-fingers, though, are cocked and curled, their executioner eyes more than willing— all of them, like him, poor boys from shtetls*, still eager to help mend the broken world. *Tikkum Olam: Hebrew for “the mending of the world” *Chekist: Soviet secret police *Shtetls: small Jewish towns Red Star,1933 The Arctic wind impales us without halt and in our wounds the devil himself leers. The star above the gulag burns like salt until we lose all track of months and years. And yet we sigh again the wry insult we let slip into comrade Stalin’s ears. We sigh until we sigh it by default and wrinkles are the riverbeds of tears. Barcelona,1936 Perhaps there’s mercy in the skies, although the Spaniards have seen none. The tears of horror in their eyes reflect the fury of the sun lifting the curtain over dawn. They know that Orlov’s Reds were there: a priest lies bludgeoned on the lawn, and Christian Spain lies struck at prayer. Gulag Burial Marker (Eastern Siberia) In a graveyard on a hill near Magadan, the heavens shed light on the skull and bones of what looks like a halfway-risen man, a poet or a priest who died a slave, and, buried underneath dry brush and stones, lay for decades in a makeshift grave. But now he lingers in a paradise of brambleberries, nettles, pines, and cones, with shadows in the sockets of his eyes, as if to show he doesn’t want to wake, as if he wished to let out yet more moans, and to protest against the wooden stake, the crimson star, the absence of a cross, the way, the truth, the light that mock his loss. The Abandoned Station Here the shades of rust are manifold. The rails resemble velvet, thick and plush. A dark grease from the time of the last Tsar rests deep within the wood of sunken ties. The platform’s still, the station name in bold Gothic letters. No pale mothers rush their children to the last departing car with brusque farewells forever in their eyes. The car rusts at the edge. Has been there since the day the Soviets sacked the sleepy town, leaving a trail of bleeding girls and grief. The station is a graveyard. Cleanse and rinse it with your mind, and still a deep red brown keeps it behind: thorn tree and nettle leaf. Leo Yankevich’s latest books are The Last Silesian (The Mandrake Press, 2005) Tikkun Olam & Other Poems (Second Expanded Edition), (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2012), and Journey Late at Night: Poems & Translations (Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013). He is editor of The New Formalist. More of his work can be found at LeoYankevich.com. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) 13 Responses Joshua Simon Harris November 16, 2017 These are all really great. The language is interesting and the rhymes are perfectly fitting. The imagery is dark and vivid, brimming with the brutality and insensitivity that accompanied the rise of communism. I love that the final poem brings us full circle, from the death of the last Tsar at the hands of “still eager” boys in the first poem, to the abandoned train station that has been rusting ever since the Tsar was killed. This is a powerful series of poems. Reply Sally Cook November 17, 2017 My dear Count Leo — As always, dark and deep the perfect form of a wine-filled lake, lapping insistently on the shores of human conscience, You have things to teach us all. It would be good to see more of your excellent work in this venue. Reply Leo Yankevich November 17, 2017 Thank you. The entire book (Tikkun Olam and Other Poems Second Expanded Edition) can be bought here at a very low price (paperback, $10: https://www.counter-currents.com/product/tikkun-olam-other-poems/#more-30341 Reply C.B. Anderson November 18, 2017 I second the opinions offered by Sally Cook, but I would like to add that your expressions cut to the marrow. Reply Leo Yankevich November 18, 2017 Thank you, C.B. Anderson. The late Alfred Dorn (1929 – 2014) once wrote me of the poems in the first edition of TIKKUN OLAM, these among them: “that they are written in blood.” Reply Helen H. Gordon November 18, 2017 These are all truly excellent, Leo. The artistic language and description manage to amaze us with the ugly reality being observed. Reply Leo Yankevich November 21, 2017 Thank you, Helen. Reply Lew Icarus Bede November 20, 2017 “Tikkun Olam” reminds me of Melville’s “Shiloh” for its realism, its ironic tone, its parenthetical remark, and its casual metrical pacing; yet as Ms. Cook points out, it is dark. Its artistry can be seen in its arrangement, particularly the historical figures, the unique feminine rhymes, like “bodice/bodies” and “settles/shtetls,” and the neometaphysical phrasing. In its brief eight lines, “Red Star, 1933” contains both a terse simile and well-wrought metaphor, while the last two sonnets with their abrupt sentences and curt, variant, masculine rhymes show that the neometaphysical phrasing, perhaps via T. S. Eliot, is a typical trait in the poetry of Mr. Yankevich. Such rich, charged, historical writing, which I as a Classicist admire, though rare in New Millennial poetry, can also be found in the deeply religious sonnets of Mr. MacKenzie and the classically-oriented sonnets of Mr. Whidden, each of these writers using the sonnet for their differing vusions [sic]. Reply Joseph S. Salemi November 20, 2017 I have seen some of these poems before. They continue to shiver my soul when I read them. Let it be noted (from the testimony of some of the degraded murderers of the Czar’s family) that a few of the shooters fondled the breasts of the female corpses, saying “This is the one time we’ll get to feel a Romanov tit!” The horror is beyond belief. Reply Leo Yankevich November 21, 2017 Joe— In the testimony there is the stuff of a poem. Reply Leo Yankevich November 21, 2017 The Tsar’s Four Daughters Ekaterinburg, Russia 17 July 1918 The Tsar’s four daughters lie dead, bullet-riddled and bayoneted, gun-smoke thick above their heads. Out of pure hatred or out of Talmudic lust, the boys from shtetls fiddle with pudenda, buttocks, thigh and chest to celebrate the brotherhood of man, They touch the rosebud of each snow-white breast, the mother’s, too, the only time they can. 21 November 2017 Reply James Sale November 25, 2017 Bleak, memorable, brilliant – true poetry – wonderfully executed; the last line of Tikkun Olam, “still eager to help mend the broken world” is staggeringly good – conveying the evil perpetrated yet via the ‘innocence’ of kids thinking they are helping the world through murder! How all of us so easily deceive ourselves. So impressive this writing, the control of language as much as the ideas themselves. Reply Leo Yankevich November 26, 2017 Thank you, Mr Sale. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. 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