(untitled)

The cricket sings on Twelfth-night,
on a January monday,
and the ringing of the bells
floats among the snow hills,
barely, barely touching
their silhouettes with its wing.

On Twelfth-night the cricket sings,
my chance visitor is silent,
and the ringing of the bells
drowns in the deep snow,
melts in the high sky,
in space that is cornerless.

But, in the corner by the stove,
like homunculi, the crickets
chirp, while all around
the ringing melts, and drowns,
but touches, in departing,
brushes us with its wing.

— Natalya Gorbanevskaya
from Lost Paradise, 1965
(Trans. by Daniel Weissbort)

Poet Natalya Gorbanevskaya was arrested for her dissident activities — particularly her protests against the Warsaw Pact nations’ 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia — in December 1969. After her arrest, she was committed indefinitely to a prison psychiatric institution. She was still incarcerated in 1972 when Daniel Weissbort prepared a volume containing this poem and a transcript of her trial. She was released from prison on February 22, 1972, two weeks after Weissbort’s book was published in London. Gorbanevskaya went into exile and was stateless until Poland granted her citizenship in 2005.

Advertisements