Tools by Varlam Shalamov

Our tools are primitive

and simple:

a rouble’s worth of paper,

a hurrying pencil,


we need no more

to build a castle –

high in the air –

above the world’s bustle.


Dante needed nothing else

to build gates

into that Hell hole

founded on ice.


by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)


translated by Robert Chandler