No Through Road by R. S. Thomas

All in vain. I will cease now

My long absorption with the plough,

With the tame and the wild creatures

And man united with the earth.

I have failed after many seasons

To bring truth to birth,

And nature’s simple equations

In the mind’s precincts do not apply.

 

But where to turn? Earth endures

After the passing, necessary shame

Of winter, and the old lie

Of green places beckons me still

From the new world, ugly and evil,

That men pry for in truth’s name.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Song At The Year’s Turning (1955)

Россия (Russia) [extract] by Max Voloshin

Great Peter was the first true Bolshevik;

his project: to project his Russia, against

all her customs, all her inclinations,

hundreds of years into some distant vista.

And like us all, he knew no other way

save execution, torture and diktat

to realize truth and justice upon earth.

If not a butcher, you could call the Tsar

a sculptor – his material not marble

but flesh, hacking out a Galatea

and flinging scraps aside. But no man builds

alone. What else was our nobility

but our first Communists? Our nobility

was – all in one – the Party, secret police

and Ivan the Terrible’s Oprichniki,

a hothouse for the breeding of strange cultures.

[…] Bakunin reflects the Russian countenance

in every way – what intellectual boldness,

what sweep of thought, what soaring flights and falls!

Our creativity lies in anarchy.

All Europe took the path of fire – but we

bear in our hearts a culture of explosion.

Fire needs machines and cities, factories,

blast furnaces; an explosion, unless it aims

to pulverize itself, needs the containment

of steel rifling, the matrix of a heavy gun.

This is why Soviet hoops all bind so tight,

why the autocracy’s flasks and retorts

were so refractionary. Bakunin needed

Nicholas – as Peter’s streltsy needed Peter,

as Avvakum needed Nikon. This is why

Russia is so immeasurable – in anarchy

and in autocracy alike, and why no history

is darker, madder, more terrible than hers.

 

by Максимилиан Александрович Кириенко-Волошин

(Maximilian Alexandrovich Kirienko-Voloshin)

(1925)

translated by Robert Chandler

‘So Many Requests, Always, From A Lover…’ by Anna Akmatova

So many requests, always, from a lover!

None when they fall out of love.

I’m glad the water does not move

Under the colourless ice of the river.

 

And I’ll stand – God help me! – on this ice,

However light and brittle it is,

And you… take care of our letters,

That our descendants not misjudge us,

 

That they may read and understand

More clearly what you are, wise, brave.

In your glorious biography

No row of dots should stand.

 

Earth’s drink is much too sweet,

Love’s nets too close together.

May my name be in the textbooks

Of children playing in the street.

 

When they’ve read my grievous story,

May they smile behind their desklids…

If I can’t have love, if I can’t find peace,

Give me a bitter glory.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

The Platypus Said… by Julie Holder

Dishonest am I

And here is the proof:

I can only lie

And that is the truth.

 

by Julie Holder