|A Russian court has convicted poet and teacher Alexander Byvshev of ‘inciting enmity’ and sentenced him to 300 hours of community service, confiscated his computer and prohibited him from working as a school teacher for two years. His ‘crime’ – the poem ‘To Ukrainian Patriots’ in which he expresses his opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and suggests Ukrainians should ensure that not one inch of Crimea is handed “to Putin’s chekists”. —Human Rights in Ukraine (KHPG), July 14, 2015|
The storefront windows dim with filth and soot.
Cyrillic, signs hold sway and hang above
the wooden-blocks paving the streets in rot.
In nineteen-twenty-one the husband's shot –
The committee puts its strangle-hold on nearly
everything the others wrote, and thought.
Damp fire-wood and famine, typhus rages
in darkened spaces – their words, to memory,
then burned. An apartment bare, but for the language,
whispered in the cold rail cars which pass
beneath the towers. Outside a prison's gate,
in the crowd she waits to see her son, for hours.
Here, a crimson-history is wrought:
"Can you describe this?" She said, "I can." She thought.
Author’s note: Alexander Byvshev’s situation is reminiscent of the plight of other Russian poets, including Anna Achmatova, (whom the poem is about) in post-revolutionary Russia, when Achmatova's work was officially stifled, though it continued to circulate in secret (samizdat), her work hidden passed and read in the gulags. With the conviction of Alexander Byvshev it seems that Russia is returning to the practice of censoring and persecuting its writers for their political views.
Tracey Gratch lives in Quincy, MA with her husband and their four children. Her poems have appeared in publications including Mezzo Cammin, The Literary Bohemian, The Flea, Annals of Internal Medicine, Boston Literary Magazine, The New Verse News and The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. Her poem, "Strong Woman" is included in the American College of Physicians, On Being A Doctor, Volume 4.