Case Study

Jared requested that I post this particular poem apropos of our discussion of opacity. 

Tea-Time in the Gulag

This time, in bed with the gardens,

we’ll try to remember all the disturbances

that have been marshalled for the alleviation

of our political boredom. Once a kingdom,


Then a colony, now a republic under which we stand

and groan. Somewhere is a country

that is no country at all, but no airline flies there.

(The airlines are in cahoots with the past.)


Simple nonessential groupings of citizens:

We have empty couches inside our homes,

but you sleep in the street. Defend that,

Marco Polo, defender of the throng. Pretender to the throne.


I toast, “Here’s to the confusion of our enemies.”

You reply, “I don’t have any.” So

I go home and cry and smoke and stay up all night

wondering if I could possibly be as wrong as you are.


We’ll never sleep in the same bed again,

or long for food from our comfortable enclaves,

or make insane promises about the deeds to come.


I won’t be your secret for long, martyr.

My hair will grow out again, and I’ll stop

imitating your mysteries.



6 responses to “Case Study

  1. this is very strong.

  2. seconded, and i think this poem strikes the ideal balance between mystery and understanding. my favorite section is the dialogue stanza, which also seems to be the most straightforward part of the poem–maybe because the clarity and intimacy of that passage offer insight into the speaker’s state of mind, so that the rest of the poem can be read with that as a kind of north star (as opposed to a decoder ring). the arch tone reminds me of a poem by akhmatova (I asked him: “What do you want?”/He said, “To be with you in hell.”/I laughed: “It seems you see/plenty of trouble ahead for us both”).

  3. I don’t know about this Akhmatova fellow, but if David reminds you of him, he must be pretty good. (And those lines are pretty wicked.) Can you point me to something more?

  4. Also, Dave do you remember our conversation about phrases like “Defender of the throng” and “Pretender to the throne”? Did we finally come up with a name for those phrases? I think we also made a up another one like that, but I don’t recall it either.

  5. Passionate solemn oath of rebellion.

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