During the interval, after act three
of Glinka’s opera, ‘Ivan Susannin’ –
pre-revolution, ‘A Life for the Tzar’ –
Stalin would leave his box at the Bolshoi.
In the fourth act, Ivan, the peasant, lures
the Polish Army out of Smolensk
and into a profound, winter forest.
They are lost. In the last act, they kill him.
Deep in the Katyn woods near Smolensk, pines
darkened the clearing where thousands, thousands
of Polish officers turned to earth.
So many crimes unpunished, dead unnamed.
‘O, Polnische Kamerad, wo sind
der Juden?’ ‘Majdanek, Chelmno, Oswiecim.’
An epoch has the tyrants it preserves,
even for an eggshell.
Note: The poem was first published on the site in January 2010ChelmnoeggshellepochGlinkaIvanJudenKatynMajdanekOswiecimPolishPolnische KameradrevolutionSmolenskStalinthe Bolshoityrants‘A Life for the Tzar’‘Ivan Susannin’