Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Journey

Oleg travels by train to Minsk,
Carrying his hands in a lady's hat box,
Wedged between his arms, 
Riding like an overfed pet cat upon his lap.
In his luggage, carefully wrapped, 
Are beautiful soap replicas of his feet;
The artisan who created them now languishing,
A prisoner of the White Army.

Look at me, thinks Oleg...
A man in extremity!
He thinks of his young manhood in Odessa,
Where vendors called out to him,
With fez-wearing monkeys perched on their brutish shoulders.
Then, his middle years,
Married to a woman from a village at the foot of the Urals;
She was mute,
But bore him a son who became an opera singer.

Oleg's hair, what there is of it, is gray.
Where is all the color, the passion, of his earlier life?
As the train bumps along, he fixes his mind on his destination...
In Minsk, at the Workers' Hall,
He will unpack his hands, proudly,
And use them to embrace Lenin
And to offer himself to the great leader.
Oleg will throw himself into the collective fire,
The forge,
Of the workers' noble cause!

His little feet, made of soap,
Delicate as a swan's, will melt.
No matter!
Oleg is exalted just to think
That his bones will form the base
Of a statue
Of a worker
In the very spot where the czar's police once came,
And closed down the opera house...
The entire company, even the ballerinas,
Sent away to Siberia!

Nearing the station, Oleg prays to Lenin,
Take these hands,
These feet...
Tuck a bottle of the "little water" under my arm
And pack me off to my grave;
You will find me there,
In a thousand years from now,
Singing your praises
And smiling.


Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a fantastic story. His hands in a lady's hat box gives this poem a running start........I enjoyed this so much!

hedgewitch said...

Quite the cautionary tale for zealots, yet so gorgeously written, with so many little brushlike flourishes that bare poor Oleg to his simple soul, that one hasn't the heart to do anything but feel sorry for him and gape gawkishly at how insanely charming the language is. (Aren't I bald enough yet? Must I get a skull wax, or what?!?)Love the way the opera singer motif ties the sadness and irony down so lightly and perfectly. Beautiful, and reminds me of how balalaikas make me feel.

Sioux said...

I'm hoping you watched a marathon of Dr. Zhivago (not the remake) and the result was this.

You found a spirit who was Russian, eh? Nicely done.

Mama Zen said...

You tell the most amazing tales!

HermanTurnip said...

Yet again a brilliant tale! Puts to shame the "soap on a rope" gift I made for my father when I was a little boy.

Honestly, this could be fleshed out a bit more. I'd love to know more!

Brian Miller said...

you are full of wit. there is danger in commiting ourselves to that which we do not truly understand...only think we do...we create gods to support our own beliefs...they are really only bastard children of our own brokeness...

and love wins in the end. smiles.

Mary said...

This was a fun and fascinating read, and I find myself smiling right along with Oleg! (after his thousand years.)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a South Carolina Republican faithful to me, too long oppressed by the thought of a black man in the White House. I would have pegged his brain in that hatbox, but I guess it got thrown behind on the rails of the iron horsie. - Brendan

Kerry O'Connor said...

You have a way with irony of situation that brings across your pertinent message loud and clear - poor, deluded Olaf: oppressed and liking it.

Scarlet said...

Your stories always take me on a journey. I want to buy your book, Shay!

Hannah Stephenson said...

You could make a whole series of hat poems, Shay!! I love that idea.

Marian said...

i really like the subtle rhymes in this. and i approve of the font :)

Daryl Edelstein said...

I love your stories too .. they're like Chinese food .. no sooner do you digest them, then you want more ..

Lynn said...

As always - wow.

Abin Chakraborty said...

In these days, I guess it is difficult to read poems about Lenin or Soviets without irony.But I'll exercise my rights as a reader and omit the irony.So cheers! Comrade, for a lovely read.loved it.Somewhere the Kremlin clock is chiming still.

Heaven said...

I like the tale of Oleg, and his willingness to be part of Lenin's legacy. Your last verse is specially powerful (though my beliefs are contrary to this).

Cheers ~

Kim Nelson said...

Oleg has evolved from primal sludge, and suffered loss of so much once coveted. Zeal is understandably attractive; and martyrdom's a trifle in times of depth... particularly if one cannot swim. And how can one, removed of hands?

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic cautionary tale! I am always amazed at the creativity you demonstrate.

Kay L. Davies said...

This is fabulous. Lenin was no better than any of the czars, and Stalin was probably worse, but they all had their worshippers. Poor Oleg.

Isadora Gruye said...

I heart this piece, from the strangely lush images (replica foot carvings and offspring who become opera singers) to the small space of poor oleg. You truly captured the longing of mother russia. This is a little Zhivago, a lotta Fireblossom. Viva la

Sara said...

Okay, where did this come from? Are you a medium now? How long has Oleg (love the name) been begging for you to let him have his say?

This is a great story -- fun to read and it made me laugh. I like that he married a mute woman who gave him a Opera Singer son. That was clever.

Margaret said...

His son is sent off to Siberia as he travels to the city to help with the cause. I loved Brian's take on this. You outdid yourself here.

Lolamouse said...

Where do you come up with these stories? Hands in a hatbox and soap feet? I'd love to know what you dream about at night if this is what you come up while you're awake!

Anonymous said...

oh, Oleg.... i hope it was a pretty hat box.

you carried me away on another of your magical journeys, Shay ~ thank you! ♥