Joseph Brodsky

Here you will find the Long Poem From A School Anthology of poet Joseph Brodsky

From A School Anthology

1. E. Larionova
E. Larionova. Brunette. A colonel's 
and a typist's daughter. Looked 
at you like someone studying a clockface. 
She tried to help her fellow mortals. 
One day when we were lying side by side 
upon the beach, crumbling some chocolate, 
she said, looking straight ahead, out 
to where the yachts held to their course, 
that if I wanted to, I could. 
She loved to kiss. Her mouth 
reminded me of the caves of Kars. 
But I wasn't scared off. 
I hold
this memory dear, like a trophy won 
on some unintelligible battle- 
front, from enemies unknown. 
That lover of plump women, that lurking tom, 
D. Kulikov, then hove in sight -- 
he married her, did Dima Kulikov. 
She joined a women's choir, 
while he toils in a classified establishment -- 
a great bony engineer... 
But I can still recall the long corridor 
and my struggle with her on the chest-of-drawers. 
Dima at the time was an ugly little pioneer. 
Where did it all go? Where's the reference point? 
And how can one, today, hope to discover 
that which has transfigured all these lives? 
A strange world lurked behind her eyes 
she could not understand herself. Or rather, 
she did not understand it even as a wife. 
Kulikov is living. I am living. She is living. 
But what happened to that world? 
Perhaps it is keeping them awake? 
I keep mumbling my words. 
Snatches of a waltz come to me through the wall. 
And the rain rustles on broken bricks. 
2. Oleg Poddobry
Oleg Poddobry. His father was 
a fencing coach. He was familiar with 
it all -- thrust, parry, lunge. 
No ladies' man, nevertheless 
he used to score, as sometimes happens 
in the world of sports, from offside. 
That was at night. His mother was sick, 
his little brother wailing in the crib. 
Oleg picked up an axe and when 
his father entered, battle began. 
But the neighbours arrived in the nick 
and four of them got the better of the son. 
I remember his face, his hands; 
next, the foil with a wooden grip. 
Sometimes we practised fencing in the kitchen. 
He got hold of a ring with a whopping stone; 
used to splash around in out communal bath... 
He and I left school together; then 
he joined a cookery class, while I 
worked as a milling operator in the Arsenal. 
He baked pancakes in the Taurid Gardens. 
We had a good time carting firewood, 
on New Year's Eve sold fir trees at the station. 
Unfortunately, in association 
with some low character, 
he did a shop -- he got three years for that. 
He warmed his ration up over the bonfire. 
Was released. Survived some heavy drinking. 
Did factory-construction work. 
Got married to a nurse it seems. 
Began to paint. Wanted, apparently, 
to take up art. His landscapes were, 
in places, not unlike 
still-lifes. Then he got pinched 
for playing tricks with medical certificates. 
Now all there is, is silence. 
I haven't seen him now for years. 
Was inside myself but didn't run into him. 
Now I am free. But even out of gaol 
I never see him. 
he is surely strolling through the woods, breathing in 
the wind. Neither kitchen, gaol, nor college could 
absorb him. And he vanished. Like Jack Frost 
he managed to disguise himself. 
I hope he is alive and safe. 
Now he excites my interest, 
like the other characters from out of childhood. 
But he is more unreachable than they. 
3. T. Zimina
T. Zimina; a delightful child. 
Her mother was an engineer, her dad 
a tally-clerk -- I never knew them. 
She was not easily impressed. Although 
a frontier pilot married her. 
But that was later. Her trouble 
started earlier than that. She had 
a relative. A district committee man. 
With a car. Her folks were separated. 
Evidently, they had problems of their own. 
A car was quite unheard of. 
Well, it all began with that. 
She was upset. But later, things 
seemed to be improving, as it were. 
A gloomy Georgian came on the scene. 
But suddenly he landed up in prison. 
And then she gave herself 
to the counter in a large haberdashery. 
Linen, fabrics, eau-de-Cologne. 
She loved the whole atmosphere, 
the confidences and her friends' admirers. 
Passers-by goggling through the window. 
In the distance, the officers' Club. And officers 
flocking like birds, with a mass of buttons. 
The pilot, returning from the skies, 
congratulated her on her good looks. 
He gave her a champagne salute. 
Marriage. However, in the Air Force 
a high value is placed on chastity; it 
is raised to the level of an absolute. 
And it was this scholasticism that 
accounted for her almost drowning. 
She had already found a bridge, but winter'd come. 
The canal was covered with an icy crust. 
And again she hurried to her counter.