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Sunday, March 06, 2022


by Richard Schiffman

His most execrable excellency,
Czar Vlad the Bad, 
a pint-sized Napoleon wannabe in a Gucci suit
decreed ten thousand widows,
and so they were before the cock crowed twice, 
on the morning he deemed cancelled
in the city he called dust.
Just your standard issue human madness.
Of course, of course. A monomaniacal error.
A payback for fanciful slights.

The psycho-historians will have a field day
while the citizenry sleep in the subway,
or pack the next train out.
But how to get away from that feverish brain,
that heart of burning petrol?
There isn’t a bunker deep enough to hide in.
Bankers on six continents dole out the pain.
No SWIFT Code for the codeless.
Oligarchs go yachtless. The ruble is rubble.
Meanwhile, the nuclear finger twitches.
A shudder ripples down nine billion spines.

The spineless despot preens for the cameras,
shows off his cadaverous abs. 
It’s flesh and blood 
below the tailored shirt, for sure, for sure,
fresh meat for a million gurneys.
Dead man walking pale as a crematorium
holds court in a palace of white marble. 
One nation huddles in the basement.
Another weeps and hides its face.

Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist, poet and author of two biographies. His poems have been published in The New Verse News, Alaska Quarterly, Rattle, The New Ohio Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, Writer’s Almanac, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and other publications. His first poetry collection What the Dust Doesn't Know was published in 2017 by Salmon Poetry.