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Wednesday, December 01, 2010


by James Gage

"To do evil a human being must first believe that what he is doing is good.”
                                                            --Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Torture is a word
with more than four letters
but of course there are worse,

words like earlobe or gulag or
Bagram Air Base, places you hoped
your concealment might keep you from seeing.


It has been two years since Aleksandr
returned to the taiga,
two years since he left us for dusk
and the world is the same now but
different, the appeals have grown louder.
The court has drawn down
its heavyweight robes and
butterflies are trapped in its vestments.
The bailiff keeps checking his watch.

Still the old man in the back
stares stalwartly on,
beard spilling from his eyes
like silver tailings from a mine,
he is quiet, there is too much to say
and he’s already said it, bellowed
from the hemlocks and his solitary cells

against the fear and the hate
for the hope and the love          
without raising his voice,
without raising his hand.


Through ribboning birch
the snow hums down like an iron
branding on skin. A voice rings out
and then fades, swallowed by
a silence that spreads like an inkblot.

James Gage is a freelance writer and editor who has published poems in Main Street Rag, Inkwell, Mountain Gazette, Powhatan Review, The Iconoclast, and Out of Line. A native Vermonter, he is increasingly interested in the Vermont Independence movement.